Mind, Body and Spirit: The Quest for New Students with Mr. Bruder

We caught Brian Bruder at a Bad Time. It’s the eve of Kennedy Catholic’s Accepted Students Day, which for the Director of Admissions is like the week before Christmas for Santa Claus. Every child who was accepted into Kennedy gets an invite to the big blowout the night of February 1st, and it’s the last opportunity for admissions, guidance, faculty, coaches, and student volunteers to communicate the message about why someone should elect to go Kennedy Catholic.

Mr. Brian Bruder, Kennedy Catholic's Director of Admissions

Mr. Brian Bruder, Kennedy Catholic’s Director of Admissions

“But out of all the groups helping out, our best salespeople are our current students,” Mr. Bruder points out. “They symbolize to a mother or father in attendance that night, ‘That could be my son. That could be my daughter! This is the right fit for us.'”

This is Mr. Bruder’s second year as Kennedy Catholic’s Director of Admissions and spit polish pit boss. He joined the school in 2014 and has been teaching Global II, Civics, and Economics for ten years. He attended down-county rival Iona Prep before getting his marketing degree at Fordham University and his master’s in education at Mercy College.

So by training Mr. Bruder is a marketer and marketers, of course, sell things. From a marketer’s point of view, then, what’s Kennedy’s biggest selling point?

“The best selling point is that we are college prep, we have great facilities here, we are generally affordable in the marketplace, we reinforce Christian values, and we are unapologetically Catholic,” Mr. Bruder told us. “There is also that small matter about the return on investment: Our students consistently secure scholarship dollars to top academic institutions around the country including military academies. Last year’s class garnered over 29 million dollars in scholarships.”

Marketers all have “elevator pitches” and we wanted to hear Mr. Bruder’s. Let’s say you have just five minutes to spare. You can’t give a prospective student a tour of the whole school, so where do you take him?

“I will take him to the heart of the school, and that’s St. Mary’s Chapel,” he explained “It communicates the spirit and Catholic heritage of our school and how it started and how that translated. It was purposefully built right in the heart of the school.”

Outside of the run-up to Accepted Students Night, the Admissions Department also gets busy when Kennedy brings in transfer students This usually occurs towards the end of the 1st semester and later, closer to June. Five to ten percent of the Kennedy Catholic student population at any given time are transfer students, and that’s kind of a big deal, Mr. Bruder told us. They come from public schools, other Catholic schools in the area, and, as of this week, they come from Russia.

“For the first time in Kennedy history we have two students from Moscow,” he explained. “One is a 9th grader and one is a 10th grader. They are both hockey players, and apparently heard about the great education that (Kennedy Alumnus and NJ Devils’ defenseman) Steve Santini got here, how he was able to balance hockey and academics. Their parents want them to be educated in the United States. One has already signed a commitment letter to attend the University of Connecticut.”

When not planning a year ahead or dealing with a sudden influx of Soviet students, the Admissions Department handles the highly successful “Gael for a Day” Program.

“It’s an opportunity for interested 7th or 8th graders to come and visit Kennedy Catholic for a day,” Mr. Bruder told us. “They are paired up with a current 9th grader who might be from the same town or went to the same school, someone who can shed some light on their daily commute, or may have the same interests in sports. They go and visit class to class; they meet the teachers, the coaches; and instructors in the Art Department, conductors of the orchestras and bands. I like to tell them when they come in, ‘don’t be nervous, just be a sponge, and absorb the day.’ We want it to be the right fit, we want them to walk away from Kennedy Catholic saying, ‘Y’know what? This is where I need to be. This is my home.’

I always tell an 8th grader that we are not only going to develop your mind and body here, but we are also going to develop your spirit. We are not only go to make you into a good student, but we are going to make sure you are prepared to be successful in life.”

Sitting atop the admissions mountain, Mr. Bruder is in a unique position to discern what ties all the students accepted into Kennedy together. What connections do all these students – many traveling many miles away daily – share?

“We are all linked by a common faith, we are all linked by the desire to excel, and we all want to be, as our motto says, ‘We are courageous, we are compassionate, we are Kennedy Catholic,’” Mr. Bruder says. But he urges us not to mistake the Kennedy student body for the Kennedy community as a whole, for that is grander still.

“The Kennedy community is anybody who ever walked through these doors: alumni, family, parents. It is current faculty and past faculty. The Kennedy Catholic community is a strong one, a loyal one, it’s one that future graduates are going to be proud to be part of.”

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