St. John Neumann Starts the Year With First House Assembly


The freshmen and transfer students at St. John Neumann Catholic High School, end their first week of school by finding out their hidden “house” assignments.

Neumann is  one of a handful of schools across the nation that participates in what is called a “house system.” This system is used to bring a community together, but what is a house system? Or more importantly, how does it develop unity in a school?

The house system originated in England in 1749, with the purpose of promoting unity and providing pastoral care. Many people might recognize it from the pop culture novel series, Harry Potter. In the novel, students would often play their signature sport, Quidditch, by flying on their magical broomstick and throwing “quaffles” into the goals across the field, then eventually catching the golden snitch at the end of the match to get more points in the game than the other house.

Here at Neumann, students are randomly grouped and divided into separate teams that likewise participate in games and activities to earn points throughout the year. This friendly competition is intended to create a sense of unity and drive among the student body. In addition to the competitions, the Neumann house system is designed to provide pastoral care to each member of the student body. In other words, its goal is to provide students with support, counsel, and a sense of belonging. To have one set goal as a house throughout the year, that of winning as a team, is one that seems to have truly helped strengthen the social interaction and teamwork among our youth. 

To gain house points at Neumann, you can do things such as beat a rival house in a certain sport, answer trivia questions correctly, wear respective house colors on a designated day, have better discipline/behavior than another house, or even be the loudest house in the stands during assembly period. There are four houses at SJN: the DeSales Knights, the Devereux Dragons, the Raley Raptors, and the Mazzarello Mustangs. Each house represents 3 core values, and no two houses are the same. The values are DeSales: Humility, Gentleness, and Strength; Devereux: Courage, Zeal, and Selflessness; Raley: Joy, Kindness, and Perseverance; and Mazzarello: Holiness, Wisdom, and Friendship. Other schools may have their own variations of the house system, but for the most part, the common goal remains the same: to unite and invigorate the youth, and give them time to have fun and take a break from the trials and tribulations of academics. 

Neumann initiated the house system 6 years ago, and it has had more than a positive impact on student life. A student in the Devereux House, Caitlin Loverde, states that, “It brings the school together. It helps us bond with our classmates and housemates across every grade. It also helps students to meet new friends.” The house system has done just that, spreading school spirit and loud cheers on campus for just over 5 years now. 

On August 12, 2022, these 4 houses came together to welcome the incoming class of 2026, as well as transfer students, and sort them into their houses. The students were sorted through an interesting process of using bags of candy with their names on them. Each bag contained candy and a lanyard with the student’s house color. Once they were sorted, the freshmen and transfers were directed to their new houses’ respective rooms. Current house members, both students and teachers, were waiting to welcome them with cheers and applause. Each house engaged in a series of icebreakers, led by the house captains and house council, to help everybody get to know each other. English department head and Raley House teacher, Denise Szedelyi, says that the goal for this retreat is “to create a sense of camaraderie, family and friendship among students.” Szedelyi also describes the current house system as being “like a student government.”

Following the icebreakers, each house’s 4 homeroom classes hurried out to engage in a scavenger hunt. At each of the stations, students completed certain tasks like answering questions, playing games in the various classrooms, or even naming all of the states in the country. The objective was to to gain clues that led them to the next step, ultimately leading them in the direction of their homeroom flag. The first homeroom to make it back with their flag won for the whole house. Raley House came in first place, earning them 100 points towards the house competition. Devereux House came in second with 75 points. Just behind Devereux, Mazzarello house added 50 points to their score for the house race. Last but not least, DeSales came in fourth place with 25 points. Will Raley secure even more wins throughout the house competition? We’ll have to wait to find out, because this is only the first month into the school year, meaning anything is possible!

In the foreseeable future there will be more assemblies with games such as “Jeopardy,” with 4 people from each house sitting on the stage in the Justin Holocek Student Life Center to answer trivia questions. There will also be volleyball games with student volunteers from every homeroom to play on the court. This year will probably be one in which each house has to watch out for Devereux though, because house captain Saniya Bass has declared that, “we’re already in first place.” Everyone watch out for Saniya Bass and the Devereux Dragons, because they seem to be bringing the most school spirit this year.