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Meet The New Faculty: Mr. Jon-Pierre Mitchom

Jon-Pierre MitchomWhen you talk to Jon-Pierre Mitchom, Priory’s new Director of Equity and Inclusion, two themes continue to pop up: faith and family.

Mr. Mitchom grew up in Belleville, East St. Louis, and south St. Louis City. When he was in the second grade, his mother took a job with the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation, and he enrolled in that program and began attending school at Spoede Elementary in Ladue. “It was a culture shift, to say the least,” he says. “It was the first time race was readily apparent to me.”

The transition to the new school was tough — he had to wake up earlier, it was a new social environment and curriculum, there was more travel back and forth to school — and his internal processing of that change started to affect his academics. He was tested, and scored above his grade level, but his grades weren’t reflecting that. He turned to prayer.

“It was my first experience with faith and guidance and support in that way,” he says. “It’s when I really began to feel a closeness to God.”

Once he made it to the 4th grade, he hit his stride academically and athletically, and began to excel in basketball. At Ladue High School, he was a four-year varsity player under coach Bobby McCormack, and by his senior year he was a top-5 player in both the metro area and in the state. He earned a scholarship to the University of Illinois-Chicago, where he studied psychology and worked in the campus ministry and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. After college, he played one season of professional basketball for Zenica Čelik in Bosnia.

Returning stateside, he joined Hopewell Mental Health as a community support worker. He counseled 20-30 clients who were dealing with chronic mental illness and often with addiction. “I saw a side of our community you don’t often see,” he says. “I wanted to help prevent others from falling into those situations, which opened up my path into education.” That path led him to a few years of teaching at a private, Christian elementary school, and then into the Rockwood School District coordinating a mentoring program for middle school students.

His role in the Rockwood schools changed over time, moving into educational equity and diversity programming and supporting homeless students and other families in transition. While working at Rockwood, he obtained his Master’s in school counseling and therapy from Missouri Baptist University. His most recent job before coming to Priory was with the Parkway School District, as a school counselor and on the social justice leadership team for the district. “We closely examined the district’s disciplinary practices, to make them more counseling-focused,” he says. “Looking back, it was closely aligned with Priory’s Benedictine philosophy, discussion-based and with a focus on care of the whole person.”

Mr. Mitchom’s work extended into community involvement as well, especially in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson a few years ago. He was a facilitator of community discussions and was involved in the task force that worked on issues of equity and justice in the aftermath of those events. He teaches anger management classes for the St. Louis family court system, and worked with Dr. Norman White at Saint Louis University on a program called “Shut It Down,” focused on the school-to-prison pipeline. “We worked with the St. Louis Public Schools in the wake of their stopping suspensions as a disciplinary practice,” he says. “The focus was on the restorative practices paradigm, recognizing the human dignity in our students, and ensuring there is a teaching element to discipline in addition to accountability.”

With that experience in tow, Mr. Mitchom started work at Priory on Monday, Nov. 26, and has been spending time since then “getting comfortable, and getting to know the family.” As the first person to fill his role, he will be responsible for developing and implementing programming for our faculty, students, and parents in the areas of racial, cultural and educational equity and inclusion.

“When it comes to equity and inclusion, it helps to think of our community as a family,” he says. “Everyone in a family has different personality types and experiences, different strengths and weaknesses, and these differences in our family cause the members of our community to experience Priory in different ways.

“We have to self-study and make sure we are working together to meet everyone’s needs. We all have blind spots, and we find them by creating an environment of free exchange of experiences and feelings. We want everyone to have the opportunity to achieve the same outcomes no matter who you are or where you are from.

“Being at Priory should be a joyful experience throughout because everyone’s needs are met.”

When it comes to his areas of focus, Mr. Mitchom sees Priory’s Benedictine, Catholic mission as a great advantage. “Faith is an important starting point for these conversations, and that allows us as a community to do things that other places can’t,” he says. “No family is perfect, and there are always opportunities for conflict, but also for improvement – to transform our relationships to be deeper and more authentic. We can do that more effectively when we look at things through the lens of the love of Christ.”

He also sees a correlation between listening as a hallmark of Benedictine education, and the way he defines inclusion. “When your focus is on listening, everyone is valued and everyone’s voice has both the space to be heard and the power to influence the life of the school and of the community,” he says.

In the next few weeks, Mr. Mitchom has a goal of meeting with each student and staff member at Priory to hear about their experiences here. He’ll be working to get caught up on existing initiatives related to equity and inclusion in the school, and to support the Diversity Clubs in both the High School and Junior School.

Mr. Mitchom has been married to his wife Shelley for 11 years, and they have three sons who all attend City Academy — Jon-Paul, Jon-Piers and Jon-Philippe. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, cycling and watching basketball.

“I’m very thankful to be here,” he says. “Being in education is a calling, and I count it as an honor to be a co-laborer with our faculty and staff and with Christ.”

“Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”

Prologue, 1

“This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.”

Prologue, 1

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection.”

Prologue, 4

“If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim. (Ps 33[34]:13)”

Prologue, 17

“Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom (1 Thess 2:12).”

Prologue, 21

“If we wish to dwell in the tent of this kingdom, we will never arrive unless we run there by doing good deeds.”

Prologue, 22

“What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace.”

Prologue, 41

“Therefore, we intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service.”

Prologue, 45

“The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.”

Prologue, 47

“The reason why we have said all should be called for counsel is that the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger.”

Chapter 3, 3

“Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.”

Chapter 4, 20-21

“Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love.” –Chapter 4, 25-26

“Bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false, but speak the truth with heart and tongue.”

Chapter 4, 27-28

“Place your hope in God alone.”

Chapter 4, 41

“Respect the elders and love the young.”

Chapter 4, 70-71

“Pray for your enemies out of love for Christ. “

Chapter 4, 72

“If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down.”

Chapter 4, 73

“The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all.”

Chapter 5, 1-2

“Speaking and teaching are the master’s task; the disciple is to be silent and listen.”

Chapter 6, 6

“The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes (PS 35[36]:2) and never forgets it.”

Chapter 7, 10

“Let us consider, then, how we ought to behave in the presence of God and his angels, and let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices.”

Chapter 19, 6-7

“On arising for the Work of God, they will quietly encourage each other, for the sleepy like to make excuses.”

Chapter 22, 8

“Every age and level of understanding should receive appropriate treatment.”

Chapter 30, 1

“Above all, let him be humble. If goods are not available to meet a request, he will offer a kind word in reply, for it is written: A kind word is better than the best gift (Sir 18:17).”

Chapter 31, 13-14

“Let all the rest serve one another in love.”

Chapter 35, 6

“Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God.”

Chapter 43, 3

“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading.”

Chapter 48, 1

“The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent.”

Chapter 49, 1

“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35).”

Chapter 53, 1

“Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims.”

Chapter 53, 2

“(B)ecause wherever we may be, we are in the service of the same Lord and doing battle for the same King.”

Chapter 61, 10

They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom 12:10).”

Chapter 63, 17

“We wish this rule to be read often in the community, so that none of the brothers can offer the excuse of ignorance.”

Chapter 66, 8

“Trusting in God’s help, he must in love obey.”

Chapter 68, 5

Never to do another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16).”

Chapter 70, 7

“No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else.”

Chapter 72, 7

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”

Chapter 72, 11-12

“What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest of guides for human life?”

Chapter 73, 3

“What book of the holy catholic Fathers does not resoundingly summon us along the true way to reach the Creator?”

Chapter 73, 4

 

Saint Louis Abbey

Saint Louis Priory School

500 South Mason Road
St. Louis, MO 63141
P. 314.434.3690    F.314.576.7088
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