A Special Breed - A Look at Two CM Renaissance Men

For a CM Renaissance Man, getting good grades and being a stand-out in sports and co-curriculars is just the tip of the iceberg. Time crunches, heavy workloads, and a team player mindset all factor in, but it’s the ability to make
students better by simply being who they are that sets this special breed apart.
It’s 6:00 a.m. and eighth grader Rocky Vankoski’s Amazon Alexa announces that it’s time to wake up. He rolls out of bed and makes his way to the kitchen, where cereal and a breakfast shake await him. An hour later, he’s on his way to campus in his mom’s car.

Meanwhile, in Dedham, senior Aidan Healy is enjoying a yogurt while making his lunch. He says goodbye to his mom and drives to campus where he joins friends in Campus Ministry for a donut.

Healy and Vankoski are considered CM Renaissance Men - they excel academically, participate in co-curriculars, but most importantly they’re there for their classmates when called upon, and understand that school in every way comes first.

Around 7:45 a.m., Vankoski’s walk to homeroom is filled with hellos and fist bumps from friends like Richie Curran, Jai Moreschi-Furtick, and Liam Romano. Once in his seat, he uses the few minutes before the morning announcements to scroll through Instagram with his friends. Between laughs, they trade ideas for their weekly collection of photos of CM students acting appropriately inappropriately, with a caption proclaiming it’s “Almost Friday.”

None of the photos have a connection or much context, they make the middle school students laugh, though. This week, a rugby photo from the CM Athletics Instagram account gets a strong recommendation for next
week’s post.

After homeroom, Healy heads to the performance center for AP Comparative Government and Politics.
The Yale-bound senior plans on majoring in political science, which isn’t a surprise to his teacher, Mr. Peter Hill. Reflecting on this year’s class, Hill praises Healy and his classmates for their interest, calling them one of the most engaging groups he’s ever taught. But before they can get into a discussion on parliamentary political systems, the focus turns elsewhere. Healy’s class is aware that he is being followed for a story. As he enters the room, the ribbing begins as photographs are taken.

“When’s the documentary coming out?” one classmate shouts.

Fellow senior Jack Hood sits in disbelief that someone is authoring a story on a day in the life of his friend. Healy shrugs it off. He knows they mean well, as heckles are followed by a preclass prayer that the story portrays Healy in a positive light.

Back in Donahue Hall, Vankoski is studying the Bill of Rights in social studies. Vankoski raises his hand to answer every question from Mrs. Barbara Flynn and flashes his sense of humor while answering a question on the Eighth
Amendment with an observation that he can make thanks to the First Amendment.

“Your earrings look like candy Nerds,” says Vankoski, getting a laugh from his teacher.

By 8:45 a.m., Healy is viewing his theology Capstone project, - a slideshow of his life’s journey split into three parts - before CM, life at CM, and after CM. It’s a nostalgic moment for Healy, who cracks a smile and whispers to his friends as photos flash across the screen. In them, he is performing in musicals, leading the state-champion
speech and debate team, running with the cross-country team, and singing with the choir. Several photos feature Healy with the friends who have been at his side during his six years at

Healy takes a 10-minute break between the second and third periods. It is an opportunity to regroup, follow up with teachers, or simply relax before the day continues. In Healy’s case, his conversation with his AP Latin
teacher gets interrupted by classmate Mischa Bane, who uses the break for an impromptu accordion concert.

As Bane plays, Healy cheers as the music gets more complex. By the end, Bane receives a standing ovation from Healy and his classmates as the break finishes and everyone in the room prepares for the challenge of Latin translation.

At 10:20 a.m., Healy arrives at the Campus Ministry office with friends John Marcucci, who’ll be going to Harvard, and Sean Fay, who will attend New York University. As they talk about winning the school’s fifth Speech and Debate state championship in six years, Healy beams with pride. As a team co-captain, Healy frequently
helped younger members of the team meet and exceed the expectations of the program, often leaving little time to prepare for his own performance. For Healy, the challenge is not limited to winning another state championship but making sure that the underclassmen can carry on the program’s winning tradition.

“One thing that was instilled in me was that you had a responsibility to continue the program,” Healy says.

Following three periods of traditional lecture classes, Vankoski enters the Creative Making Design Studio, where he uses his engineering skills to create a prism. The project is a chance for Vankoski to think creatively as there are many ways to make a prism. As Vankoski works, he helps his friend Richie Curran, who has a broken arm. The conversation between the two and Connor Clifford starts with the international soccer star
Cristiano Ronaldo and shifts to the latest developments concerning which colleges are
recruiting CM football players. Clifford lists the recent updates
- interest from half the Big 10 for Guerby Lambert, an offer to attend the University of Maine for Mervens Amazan, and a visit to Yale by quarterback JC Petrongolo.

As the end of class nears, Rocky presents a pentagon prism that gets praise from his teacher Mark Evans but will still require a finishing touch that can be applied the next day.

The bell rings at 11:10 a.m. marking the start of long block, a busy period of the day for Healy. He has two hours for an AP Chemistry class that serves as a review for the AP Exam in May, lunch, and a choir rehearsal for the upcoming spring concert.

The music room in Donahue Hall has the familiar faces that Healy has seen throughout the day - Marcucci, Hood, Faye, and others like Maximo Fenn. Healy sways back and forth, dancing to Dr. Michael Monroe’s rendition
of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” before pausing to sing the opening of the song. Not bad, according to Dr. Monroe, but they need to sing a little lighter in the beginning.

Choir practice ends, but it’s not the last musical note Healy will sing this day. He has rugby practice from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. and a three-hour choir rehearsal at 5:30 p.m. That’s a large commitment and time that could be dedicated to dinner, homework, studying for the AP Exams, or helping a friend with
an outside-of-school project like a short film.

“When I have to prioritize things, there is a feeling that I’m letting people down, but I’m giving my best effort,” Healy says. “You learn to be your best self, and it builds character.”

While Healy is driving to rugby practice, Vankoski steps up to bat in a baseball game against Franklin HS. Despite
being in eighth grade, he plays on the freshman team.

In the bottom of the second, he hits a triple and scores the opening run. As his teammates cheer, Vankoski runs back to the dugout and urgently tells his teammates to attack the curveball the pitcher is throwing. He wants to extend the lead and knows it can’t happen unless he encourages his teammates to get on the scoresheet.

“Just lean into those pitches!” Vankoski belts.

Vankoski is back at his Brookline home by 5:30 p.m., eating dinner with his parents and younger brother after a
long day. At 6:00 p.m., he starts his homework, which includes researching famous Greeks and Trojans in preparation for reading The Odyssey for English and a worksheet on scientific notation for Algebra. He also reviews the Bill of Rights for a quiz in social studies.

At 8:30 p.m., Vankoski’s homework is done, giving him a half-hour to play Nintendo Switch and check up on the
Red Sox. By 9 p.m. it’s time to turn off the lights and get some rest for another full day.
By the time Healy returns home from his second choir practice, it’s after 8:30 p.m. He eats dinner alone and
starts translating his AP Latin homework, finishing his senior Capstone project for Scholars - a proposal to improve how classical languages are taught, and studying for his final in-class tests in AP Comparative Government and Politics and AP Environmental Science. The work occupies Aidan until he heads to bed
at 11:00 p.m.

Men like Healy and Vankoski succeed at CM not because they feel pressure to participate in everything, but because they love the challenge and want to take advantage of what their school has to offer. As Vankoski says, he plays baseball, performs in plays, and participates in speech club because he loves it. There is no obligation, just passion.