Going to Monsignor Bonner was important to John Sullivan,
so he saved up and paid tuition his senior year

By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

DREXEL HILL – Last year, when John Sullivan was working evenings and weekends behind the counter wrapping meat and waiting on customers at Roy Tweedy’s Old Fashioned Butcher Shop in Ridley Township, where his dad is meat manager, he had a dream, the same dream lots of other kids his age have. He’d really like to buy a set of wheels. Maybe a Nissan Altima, that would be nice.

But then again, he had another dream. For the past three years he’d been attending Garnet Valley High School, and for his last year he really, really wanted to switch to Monsignor Bonner High in Drexel Hill. That’s where most of his buddies were, and he missed the Catholic education values.

His family had lived near there when he was younger, and he attended St. Andrew School in Drexel Hill through sixth grade.

He liked Catholic school and his mother Peggy Sullivan taught there too. But the family moved to Concord Township and he finished up at St. Thomas the Apostle School, Glen Mills. After grade school John expected he would go on to Bonner, where his older brothers had gone.

But his parents told him it wouldn’t be possible. With seven children and lots of college tuition to worry about, the money just wasn’t there for Catholic high school.

So John enrolled at Garnet Valley, but in his free time he bummed rides with his older brothers back to Drexel Hill to hang out with his friends and sometimes go to a Bonner game.

This past summer John decided he would spend even more time in Drexel Hill. He informed his parents he wanted to attend Bonner for his senior year.

Where would the tuition money come from and how would he get there, his father asked. Bonner is about 15 miles away from their home.

John, who had $6,000 in savings, said he’d pay the tuition himself and would find a way to get to school. It took a little convincing, but his skeptical parents agreed to let him try, he said.

John did indeed enroll at Bonner, and he loves it.

“It’s great and it’s worth it. I like the classes and I feel like I’m part of the group,” he said.

“He’s a great kid,” his father said. “I was proud and taken aback when he did this. Academically, he does very well, and my wife and I are happy for him. It’s commendable.”

Just as he loves Bonner, Bonner loves him too. When the Mothers’ Club heard his story, they bought him the Bonner class ring he would have gotten as a junior last year, according to Brendan Towell, Bonner’s admissions director.

“I think what John was [missing] was that Augustinian education of the whole person,” Towell said. “It seemed when he came to us he was searching and longing for a deeper experience. I think it was the brotherhood aspect and the family values he was searching for.”

When Towell sees John in the halls, “he has a smile on his face,” he said. “He’s happy to be here and has taken full advantage of what Bonner offers.”

As for the transportation, John drives his dad to work in the family car, then goes to school and drives back to the meat market where he works and meets his dad there. Meanwhile, one of his aunts chipped in $500 to help him get that car fund started again.

So what is in store for next year and higher education? His older brothers and sisters have gone on to Kutztown, Temple, West Chester and Penn State, all state-subsidized universities.

“I’d like to go to St. Joseph’s University,” said John, who hopes to study business or accounting. But tuition at St. Joe’s is a lot more than state schools charge.

But you never know, he’s a determined guy.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.