The role of the St. John’s Military School Intelligence and Security Officer (S-2) is one that requires discipline, a relentless commitment to academic integrity and achievement, and an appreciation for the potential that comes from that academic integrity.
It is a role that Cadet William Kaczor fits perfectly. School leaders agree that the senior from Los Angeles, California has the resolve needed to hold his fellow cadets to the highest standards, and to do so in a way that is motivating—not menacing. It is a role that he has learned to fit only after the kind of personal evolution that so often comes from life at St. John’s; an evolution that has made William’s parents extremely proud.
Seeking Better Outcomes Through Greater Structure
According to William’s mother, Jennifer Kaczor, by William’s junior year of high school, she and her husband could tell that their son needed a more structured environment for him to reach his highest potential.
“William was enrolled in a great school,” said Jennifer. “It was a private Christian high school, and the staff was extremely caring, but it was an environment that gave the students a lot of personal freedoms. It was best-suited for kids who had already matured to a certain point, and William was in a place where he was struggling to make the best use of his time.”
While the Kaczor family had previously discussed the possibility of William switching schools, when they decided that William would enroll at St. John’s, the whole family faced an adjustment period.
“We weren’t afraid to leave him at St. John’s because it is such an affectionate community,” said Jennifer. “We wouldn’t have left him if we hadn’t felt strongly that the school is above board and that he would be safe and well cared for academically and emotionally. Still, it was hard. William was polite during his preliminary enrollment interview with the school president and expressed that he was open to leaving home, but when it came time for us to leave him there, it was hard for him and me, yet within days of his arrival on campus, he was fine. He adapted so quickly.”
According to William, it did not take long for him to find his place among the brotherhood.
“I reached the point where I would rather be at St. John’s than at home. It was because of the friends I had back in LA. I didn’t feel I could trust anybody. In LA, everyone is only out for themselves. Here, I know I have people who will watch my back. I didn’t have that in LA.”
Maj. Bryan Cleveland (U.S. Marine Corps), William’s Economics and Government teacher and Cross Country Coach, has observed a marked improvement in William after only a year and a half on campus.
“Overall, I think William has become more mature since enrolling at St. John’s,” said Cleveland. “The academic and military staff have given William the opportunities and tools necessary to positively grow as an individual. His true test will come next year during his first year of college when all the decisions he makes will ultimately fall on his shoulders.”
Learning to Lead Higher
Part of what attracted the Kaczor’s to St. John’s was the opportunity for William to mature in an environment that leverages a military-based achievement philosophy.
“We hoped St. John’s would give William structure and raise his self-esteem,” said Jennifer, quickly adding, “Not that he had low self-esteem, but we hoped it would give him real self-esteem. We wanted him to experience true achievement and the confidence that comes from setting and reaching goals.”
Seeing William today having earned the position of S-2, The Kaczor’s are confident that he has learned the value of hard work, as they had hoped.
“I originally applied for the Battalion Command position of Sergeant Major, because my best friend from last year served that role and I wanted to fill his shoes,” recalls Williams. “I wanted to lead higher. “
The role that the school’s leadership ultimately selected for William was one that demonstrated the complete evolution he had made during his time at the school, from an academically uninspired and hesitant new boy to someone capable of motivating those around him to reach for their highest potential.
“As the Intelligence and Security Officer, I supervise the daily two-hour study hall. I help the cadets learn good study habits, I keep the area quiet, and make sure the cadets can be successful in their school activities. I also run cadet patrols during school events and monitor the school buildings. If there is a report of a code of conduct violation, I lead a formal investigation.”
William’s parents were thrilled when they learned that their son had earned such an important leadership position.
“We were so proud,” said Jennifer. “We always knew he could do it. We knew William could be a good and effective leader. He was so happy too. When he told us the news, he was glowing. He couldn’t stop talking about it. I think he was glad for the chance to share his struggles with others and help them improve the way that he has improved.”
According to William, the position has also taught him valuable lessons about leadership and how to help others reach their potential.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned serving as the S-2 is that you have to lead by example. Yelling doesn’t get you anywhere. In my first semester, I thought I could be a leader without leading by standards, just by telling others what to do. Yelling shuts people down, and they think you’re a jerk if you don’t do yourself what you expect them to do. I’ve learned that to lead people; you have to get to know them and understand what style of leadership and motivation they respond to.”
William’s self-awareness and interpersonal integrity are aligned with the lessons that Bryan Cleveland ultimately hopes he will learn about leadership during his time at St. John’s.
“One thing that I hope William learns about leadership from his experience at St. John’s is that leaders have to display a higher level of integrity than anyone else,” said Cleveland. “They must be true to themselves and the people that follow them by always doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.”
Looking Forward to the Future
As he enters the second half of his senior year, William is looking forward to a future that he sees very clearly, a future that represents a goal within his reach.
“I hope to go to college at Loyola Marymount University,” said William. “I’m going to live on campus and get a part-time job.”
For William’s parents, no matter the path he takes after graduating, they are proud of how far he has come.
“We are so glad William enrolled at St. John’s,” said Jennifer. “It has been everything we hoped. It’s helped to shape him into a young man. We knew we needed to put him in an environment with an external structure that would enable internal growth. We wanted him to have real-world experiences that he can learn from—and he has.”