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Cabot student chooses a unique college program that “just sounded really interesting”
When Brody Moran works with kids – either as a substitute teacher at Cabot School in his hometown during his college breaks, or this summer as a counselor at Turtle Island camp – he never asks a child what they want to be when they grow up.
“Some people love asking that question, because it provokes cute responses from little kids,” he says. “But once you hit middle school, that question is ridiculous, because the response changes almost every week. I hated that question with a passion, because I just don’t know.”
If you ask Brody that question today, he’ll respond with the above disclaimer, and then note that he really enjoys working with kids, so he’s thinking about early childhood special education. But his real answer is still that he’s not sure. “I have three more years to decide,” he says with a smile.
That’s an answer Brody is very comfortable with. He just finished his freshman year at St. John’s College, a small liberal arts college in Annapolis, Maryland, that he was drawn to, in large part, because it seemed like a great fit for someone who wasn’t sure what profession they would eventually specialize in. The St. John’s curriculum is unique; all students study the same curriculum, which is the history and philosophy of math and science. They read Homer, Aristotle, Plato, Euclid, and other early foundational thinkers. All students also study Greek, so that they can make their own interpretations of the texts if they wish.
“In most college textbooks, you’re just told what these people found. In my program, we read the original texts, then replicate the experiments and see firsthand that, whoa! It works!”
Classes, he says, are all discussion-based, and there’s definitely a lot of reading. “It was hard at first, but now I read all the time. Somewhere around October or November, it felt like I hit a switch. It became fun to have conversations in class,” says Brody, who finished his first year with straight A’s.
Brody’s high school experience at the smallest public high school in the country (his graduating class was just eight students) was overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic. During his junior year, when he was supposed to be touring college campuses, he couldn’t go anywhere. “We had a lot of our classes online, we had a COVID case almost weekly, and it seemed like we were always under quarantine,” Brody recalls.
While he feels like his college search got off to a late start, he quickly made up for it, often staying up until the wee hours researching colleges. He knew he wanted to go somewhere outside of Vermont, and since he didn’t know what he wanted to do when he finished, he was focused on finding a well-rounded school and major.
“St. John’s is pretty hidden, unless you live in Maryland or you’re in the classics world. I don’t know how I stumbled upon it,” he says. He applied early, and it was one of 12 schools he got into.
“I just wanted to go to a school that sounded interesting,” Brody says. “I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school,” he says, and he also assumes he’ll have to go on to grad school or some form of professional training once he decides on a specialty. “So I figured, I might as well read the greatest books ever written.”
Brody received college counseling through VSAC as part of the federally funded GEAR UP program, which is offered at middle and high schools around Vermont and the nation to help students from moderate-income backgrounds, many of whom are the first in their families to go to college, succeed in post-secondary programs. Both Brody and his fraternal twin brother Alec, who is now studying environmental science at UVM, grew up with a mom who had gone to college and now manages an organization that supports Vermonters living with traumatic brain injuries. While both they and their mom assumed they would go on to college, Brody says the extra support was helpful.
“I really appreciate VSAC, and my counselor, Trish Turner, was great,” he says. Brody also qualified for GEAR UP scholarships to offset college expenses, which has come in extremely handy at St. John’s. “The book money has been really helpful, especially since I go to such a book-heavy school,” he says. “I can actually buy the books, rather than having to rely on the library all the time. I’ve been very lucky, and a lot of my friends are jealous.”
Both Brody and Alec played soccer from the fifth grade all the way through high school. Brody made the All-Star team his senior year, playing on the second team for his league, and he had three offers to play in college. But he was still drawn to St. John’s for its unique academic program – and once he learned about its intramural sports program, he was sold.
At St. John’s, all freshmen are assigned to one of the school’s five intramural teams based on their last name, Brody explains; as an “M,” he played for the Druids. After their first year, all sophomores are then drafted onto a team, and then in their junior year, students decide whether or not to continue – though according to the school’s website, 50% of the student body, as well as many faculty and staff, choose to play for intramural teams throughout their time at the school. The sports include soccer, ultimate frisbee, volleyball and basketball. “It’s really competitive, and everyone has that team spirit,” Brody says. “Plus, I’m meeting people I never thought I’d talk to.”
When asked what advice he might give to those following in his footsteps at Cabot School, Brody responds right away: “Take a risk.”
“Don’t worry if a college seems a little different. If it interests you, go for it. Take a chance. I often get weird reactions when I say where I’m going to college and what I’m studying. But if it sounds cool, it is cool. And you don’t like it, you can always change.”