Brad Allen is a product of Our Lady of Perpetual Help School and has never really left our parish family. His senior year of high school he started working with the BASE program (at that time referred to as Latchkey.) While in college, he returned every Summer to further work at our parochial schools, and upon graduating in 2009, with an English degree began working as a Kindergarten aide for Chrissy Dembinski.
In what seems to be a common theme I have discovered; Brad was asked by Julie Freeman to “just” take over responsibility for the school’s Facebook page. Then Debbie Ippoliti retired from the school and that evolved into Brad becoming responsible for enrollment, marketing, and outreach. This is a role he has held at the school for six years.
As Brad phrases it, “Julie knows your strengths and weaknesses and brings out the best of you.”
Clearly this is an impressive and diverse collection of responsibilities, but Brad explains “It’s all for the kids; I want to be part of their journey.” He still remembers the first tour of the school he gave to a new family considering Our Lady’s school and that student is now nearing graduation into high school. Brad enjoys being that first contact for these new families and takes pride in, “showing them everything we are about.”
For him, the school not only educates our youngest parishioners, but also “reinforces Catholic social teaching.” Helping with that reinforcement, Brad finds particular value in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, how the school evangelizes to the entire parish, and even helps lapsed Catholics to return to the Church. I can attest to that as my own twins enrolling at the preschool drew me back to the Church and strengthened my own faith.
Regarding those evangelization efforts, Brad works closely with Amanda Athey in the preschool to hopefully enroll those kids into the school. Our Lady’s school is currently enrolling and Brad laughs, “I’m on the phone a lot with Mandy and we have a great working relationship.” Having previously worked with the BASE program and getting to know Amanda makes that relationship easier. Much like Fr. Watson knowing essentially every Catholic in Central Ohio reminds me of Brad having those “working relationships” with almost everyone in our parish.
Further reinforcing those relationships is his involvement with the school’s social media accounts. In that role, he works closely with Melissa Zuk who is responsible for the parish’s social media engagement. Brad takes this very seriously, “There’s some platforms we just don’t want the school represented on and if the school is on those places the kids will think it’s okay.” Despite that, Brad wants our school to be involved in social media and not only use it as a means to connect with parishioners, but “to be a formational tool.”
He explains, “That’s where our families are” and expounds, “Our parish is actually very young and they’re on social media.”
Given his involvement with the school, the preschool, and the parish, Brad is very cognizant of how all three entities are interwoven. The school reinforces what the parish teaches on Sundays, and the parish offers opportunities for the kids to continue their Catholic formation outside of those Sundays. As the kids progress through their Sacraments of Initiation, Brad firmly believes, “Our school is doing what it is supposed to be doing.” In his view, “All three buildings are connected” [church, preschool, and school.]
Brad was previously a student at Our Lady’s school and is currently amazed at how much was going on behind the scenes to provide an excellent academic and Catholic education to the kids. “Every piece is integral and now I get to see all aspects of what goes on.” He pauses and then laughs, “Still, it’s wild to me as a former student.”
Outside of the school, Brad is obsessed with live entertainment; concerts, movies, and plays. He is also an enthusiastic cinephile with an interest in classic, documentary, and foreign films. His favorite movie is the 1952 romantic comedy film Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. As Brad describes it, “The movie brings me joy.” Obviously, the pandemic has curtailed these activities, but Brad is looking forward to them returning to them and having previously interviewed Denise Johns, I know that is a common wish.
Regarding coming home, one of Brad’s favorite activities at the school is the “Senior Salute.” This is where the graduating senior alums are honored for their tenure and time at OLPH school. They announce their intended colleges and are “clapped out” by the entirety of the school. I attended a public school which bounced between elementary, middle, and high schools and never had that opportunity to be a part of a community where nine years of your formative development are spent in the same place with the same family. However, I distinctly remember my technical school in the Air Force where we went through a similar process with the graduating airmen. It was equal parts envy and pride watching the graduating class.
Two of the things I pride myself on (okay, my wife would argue I pride myself on quite a few things… and not in a good way) are listening more than I speak and paying attention. One of the things I noticed while speaking with Brad was a semicolon tattoo on his arm. As we were finishing our interview, I asked him about it, assuming it had to do with his university English degree.
It turns out that I was mistaken; that semicolon is a proud statement of supporting mental health. It is a brazen and outspoken affirmation against self-harm and suicide that Brad wears. I have a number of tattoos, perhaps more than I should have, but was very humbled to hear Brad’s explanation of that particular tattoo.
Perhaps associated with that tattoo, Brad’s greatest wish is for world peace. He qualifies, “Not just the stereotypical world peace.” Brad further explains, “There’s a lot of violence from differences and I just want everyone to see and celebrate those differences, but still.” Then he stops and thinks and adds, “I want us all to be able to live together. That’s why I work here and I want to help all the students to realize this.”
By Eric Brooks