Cadet Christopher “Harper” Martin Jr. speaks with calm conviction when asked about life after graduation from St. John’s Military School.
“St. John’s has created a future for me. I know what I’m doing now. Before St. John’s I wasn’t doing well academically, and I wasn’t on the right track for college. The discipline and the structure at St. John’s and the teachers here have helped me to turn my life around.”
The senior cadet from San Anselmo, California proudly adds that upon enrolling at St. John’s, he was carrying a 2.7 GPA. He will graduate with a 3.67 and has already been accepted to two colleges. Before St. John’s, the future was an intangible concept for Harper. Today, the future is everything. It is filled with possibilities and is solidly within his reach.
One of a Thousand to One of a Kind
For Harper’s parents, Christopher and Chloe Martin, the decision to send their son to St. John’s was not easy, but once they realized that a more structured environment would enable their son to achieve his full potential, they moved quickly to secure his transition in November of his junior year of high school.
“We told Harper that we were enrolling him at St. John’s the day before he was to begin classes on campus,” said Christopher. “Before St. John’s, school was something he would avoid at all costs. Harper attended a large public school with 1,000 students. That type of environment is big enough to get lost and easy to find the cracks in the system and sneak your way through. We felt he kept finding ways to do that, rather than face what he had to face.”
Chloe adds, “Harper was prioritizing other things above his schoolwork. We kept telling him that his academics were the most important thing. We realized in his junior year that we were doing everything we could to keep him focused but that he needed a radical change in setting to be successful.”
Reflecting on life before St. John’s, Harper can see with clarity the potential pitfalls that his parents feared for him at the time.
“Back in California, everyone’s parents are so wealthy that the students at my old school do whatever they want. At St. John’s, you can find your own way. Nothing is given to you. You have to work for your success and find the right path. The hardest part about starting over here is feeling like you have to find yourself. When you first come here, you don’t know who you are. This place pushes you to find who you are.”
Since Harper enrolled at St. John’s, Christopher and Chloe have missed having him in their home, yet their relationship with their son has only grown stronger despite the distance between them.
“Not having Harper as a daily part of our family life is difficult, yet our relationship with him has improved because absence makes the heart grow fonder,” said Chloe. “At home, we felt he took us for granted, but at St. John’s, he reaches out to us more and is more willing to share with us what is going on in his life.”
Christopher adds, “We feel St. John’s has helped to save our relationship with our son. We are closer because of the distance.”
After less than a full school year at St. John’s, Harper has evolved from a student who accepted being lost among the milieu of a large student body in a climate in which social pressures often outweighed academic priorities, to craving the opportunity to make an impact on his fellow students in a meaningful and substantial manner.
“Going into my senior year I wanted to earn a position on the Battalion Command staff,” said Harper. “I was so happy when I learned I had been selected for the role of S-5. As the Public Affairs Officer, my job is to create communications to promote the school and share what’s going on.”
The role of S-5 is one that St. John’s Commandant Sergeant Major Ray Nunweiler agrees suits Harper well.
“Cadet Martin is a proactive S-5,” said CSM Nunweiler. “He is always looking for ways to communicate the best of St. John’s to our community.”
Harper’s teacher, Wendy Stein, recalls when she learned the news of his selection for the Battalion Command.
“When I stepped on campus in August, Christopher ran up to me proclaiming with great pride that he was chosen as the S-5,” said Stein. “His attention to the position had been admirable.”
For Harper, earning a position on the Battalion Command staff is just as much about supporting those around him as it is about his personal development.
“The nine of us on the battalion staff are really close. We’re always together. I know those guys are my brothers. I will count on them for the rest of my life.”
Harper has sought and embraced another significant leadership position at St. John’s during his senior year, that of President of the Chapel Counsel. It is a development that Christopher and Chloe are especially proud to see.
“Christopher is an Episcopal priest, and I’m a Sunday school teacher,” said Chloe. “Harper used to rebel against going to church with us for several years before he entered St. John’s.”
“Harper needed to find his way,” added Christopher. “St. John’s gave him the space he needed to explore and claim his faith for himself.”
Lessons of Leadership
Possibly the most valuable lesson that Harper will take with him after he leaves St. John’s and begins his college career, is that of real leadership.
“To me, leadership is a way of thinking, acting, and most importantly, a way of communicating.”
Christopher and Chloe have seen firsthand their son’s newly discovered sense of confidence.
“As parents, we were delighted to walk around campus with Harper during Parents Weekend and see that he had this easy and non-self-conscious sense of authority,” says Christopher. “He was comfortable clearly and directly giving instructions to the new boys. That sense of authority is something that not many young people get to experience.”
A Future of Possibilities
Looking back, Christopher and Chloe are confident that sending Harper to St. John’s was the best decision they could have made for their son.
“We wanted Harper to understand that real growth comes from challenge,” said Chloe. “St. John’s provides an environment that we found we could not create with him at home and going to public school—a community that provides him with challenges as well as support. At St. John’s, Harper knows what is expected of him, and he is rewarded for doing his best. He has been willing to face new challenges, and has had the experience over and over again of doing something hard, and then developing the self-confidence to face even greater challenges. We have always said that we want him to have the success that he wants to have.”
“And to be a good self-supporting young man,” Christopher adds.
Harper is optimistic and appreciative as he prepares for the next phase of his life. “I committed to Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida to study hospitality management and play Division II golf,” he said with a subtle smile. “There no way I could have been admitted to this college if I had stayed in my public school, but thanks to St. John’s I am able to go. I love this place so much. I’m going to leave here with so many memories. There were times when I missed home, but in the end, I know I’ll be successful someday, and I appreciate what St. John’s has given to me.”