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Avalon senior says he ‘got the best’ from his school experience

Vincent McHale (Photo courtesy The Avalon School)

The day after his 18th birthday and the day before his last day of high school classes, Vincent McHale walks through the hallways of The Avalon School happily greeting younger students and chatting with teachers. It’s a bittersweet moment when one life chapter ends and another is about to begin, but McHale takes it in stride.

He looks back on his high school years with fond memories of favorite classes and the lively Catholic community he found in the Wheaton all-boys K-12 school, but readily admits it was a bit of an adjustment at first when he started Avalon, during the second semester of his freshman year.

One of nine kids and a parishioner of St. Patrick Parish in Rockville, McHale attended public school during his elementary years. When area schools closed during the pandemic and classes went virtual, his parents decided to homeschool him and his younger sister, Susanna. Soon, the McHale family looked for another educational option for their youngest children. Avalon and its sister K-12 school for girls, Brookwood School, Kensington, were Montgomery County secondary schools that opened for full-time, in-person learning on Sept. 1, 2020, and soon afterward became the perfect fit for the McHale family.

Avalon and Brookwood aren’t schools with a community, but rather “a community that has schools,” said McHale, borrowing a quote from his best friend and former Avalon classmate, Anton Parker, who now serves in the U.S. Marines. “We put each other first. That’s the part of Avalon I love the most,” he said. “I’ll miss it, but it’s time to go on to the next thing.”

Starting this fall, The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. will be the next step in McHale’s life and educational journey, where he will double major in brain science and psychology, and minor in philosophy. He said he’s always been fascinated by the human brain, its workings and the mind. The decision to add studies in philosophy, he said, is important because it is a subject that “makes you think and teaches you to think properly.”

After initially considering the military or moving to Alaska where an older brother lives, McHale said he decided on CUA, another community that is near and dear to his entire family. His older siblings attended the university, founded in 1887 by the U.S. Catholic bishops, and both his dad and mom, Bob and Carol McHale, currently work there. Two of his older brothers are studying for the priesthood – Brother Bruno Marie will be ordained a Dominican priest and Louis McHale is at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and is scheduled to be ordained a priest of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington in two years.

McHale said his Catholic faith has deepened and grown more personal during the past few years, especially through his involvement in the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation’s group for high school students – Gioventu Studentesca. During a recent GS summer hiking trip, he said a moment stands out in particular that helped him truly see Christ in others and God’s presence in his own life. One of his senior Avalon classmates, Kasper Syski, is unable to walk due to a lifelong condition called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC) amyoplasia type.

In order for Kasper to make it up the mountain with the others, McHale carried his friend on his back for more than three miles. “After, I asked myself, ‘How did I do that?’” he said. “God worked through me because knowing my strength, I could not have done that on my own.”

Reflecting further on his years at Avalon, McHale said his favorite classes were Latin, Apologetics & the Trinity, but he said he especially enjoyed a class on Vietnam history and literature taught by Tom Tobin, a longtime Avalon English teacher. “He really brought the class to life and shared his love of the country with his class,” said McHale, who outside the classroom kept busy playing varsity soccer, starring in this year’s Avalon-Brookewood play, Macbeth, serving as Avalon’s Calvert House captain, and playing for the Maryland Exiles, an area club rugby team.

With his May 24 graduation approaching, McHale said although he was initially apprehensive about starting a new school more than three years ago, he is grateful for the opportunity to attend Avalon and become part of its tight-knit, family-oriented atmosphere. “I threw myself into everything hoping for the best, and I got the best,” he said.