Danny Tobin
Danny Tobin

As Danny Tobin prepares to graduate from The Avalon School in Gaithersburg and looks forward to attending The Catholic University of America, where he plans to major in philosophy, he said the foundation for his chosen field of study was laid during his years at the all-boys Catholic school he attended from third through 12th grade.

“You are educated as an entire person,” said Tobin of what drew him to pursue philosophy, which reflects Avalon’s mission and curriculum steeped in the liberal arts and sciences.  “Avalon was a good place to be. The teachers invest in so much of you as a person.”

Throughout his 10 years at Avalon, Tobin played junior varsity baseball, basketball and was captain of the high school’s varsity soccer team. He also starred in lead roles in recent school plays,  “An Ideal Husband” and “Our Town.”  Avalon is divided into a system of four houses and Tobin served as house captain of Carroll House in his senior year.

One major benefit of attending a smaller school, he said, is the rare chance to participate and excel in both sports and the arts. “Avalon gave me a great opportunity to do that,” said Tobin, a musically-gifted young man who is self-taught in the piano, guitar, banjo, concertina, flute and ukulele.

“Danny is an earnest young man, well-rounded, genuinely interested in learning and very generous,” said Avalon’s headmaster Kevin Davern, adding that Tobin’s quiet sense of humor often exhibited itself in his sartorial sense.

For the second year in row, Tobin will travel to Jamaica for a weeklong mission trip with more than 20 students and faculty from Avalon and its sister school, Brookewood School, Kensington. While there, the youngsters and adults will serve and work on a construction project at Jacob’s Ladder, a Mustard Seed community home for about 100 young adults with developmental and physical disabilities near Kingston.

Tobin said through the charitable works of mercy, the students missionaries help improve the lives of those they serve, but in turn, they receive many spiritual gifts and deepen their Catholic faith. Around his neck is a crucifix he brought home from Jamaica last year. “I never take it off,” Tobin said.

His previous mission trip, he said, was life changing. “It’s just the best week ever. Being in that environment just helps you look at life in a new way. You go and give yourself to the people there. When you come back, life is exactly the same, but you see everything differently. I’m thankful Avalon chose to do this or I would never have gone,” he said. Tobin, 18, and his family – his two brothers, one sister and his parents, Tom and Grainne – are parishioners of St. Patrick Parish, Rockville.

He said it is also a profound experience to see firsthand how the Mustard Seed community workers lovingly care for those with special needs, individuals who are often discarded by society and abandoned by their families.

“It’s a real experience of faith, so different from your daily life,” he said. “They really take care of the people, give them the sacraments, offer Mass every day for them. Seeing that witness to faith really helps your own faith. Once you’ve seen that, you have to acknowledge there’s something extraordinarily beautiful there.”

Tobin also credits several of his teachers throughout his years at Avalon as being role models in education and the Catholic faith.  He singles out Matthew Bronzi, who taught him chemistry and biology, and Kevin Davern, Avalon’s headmaster who also teaches apologetics. Tobin also said he always enjoyed classes taught by his dad, Tom, a longtime English teacher at Avalon.

As his graduation nears and The Avalon School prepares to relocate this summer from Gaithersburg to the Wheaton campus of St. Catherine Laboure Parish, Tobin said he will always have fond of memories of his time at Avalon. On a recent trek through nearby woods adjacent to school’s campus, Tobin said it was nostalgic to see the “almost ancient” ruins of forts and a makeshift catapult he and his classmates built many years ago as adventurous and spirited, young Avalon boys.

“I’ll miss Avalon, but it’s never done. It’s a community and there’s always something to come back for, and I like that,” he said.