When you consider the path that Terry McCafferty ’22 has taken through Saint Ignatius, most of it does not match those journeys taken by many students. He’s not your typical young man who grew up dreaming of playing for a Wildcat sports team, or a guy whose artistic talents were naturally attracted to the faculty and facilities.
In fact, aside from his family lineage at West 30th and Lorain (where his dad Terry teaches English), Terry’s journey is entirely of his own making.
“Before coming here I sort of had an idea of the things I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to wait,” he says. “And I’m glad that I had gotten involved early, in hindsight, because of the pandemic and different things. It allowed me, even within C.A.T., being there early I found L’Arche, and I got to go on a few Labres early on, so it just sort of allowed me to find what I was interested in doing and sort of focusing in on that.”
He was the rare freshman who just jumped into some of the school’s service programs. In Friends with L’Arche, a ministry where students make a monthly visit to a home for people with developmental disabilities, McCafferty found important work that would still fulfill him four years later.
It was plain to see, from day one, that this boy from the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood was just a go-getter. His drive to get involved, his audacity to dream big, and his own natural intelligence put him on the short list to be the Valedictorian for the Class of 2022, an honor he ultimately received at graduation on May 29.
But for all of his achievements inside and outside of the classroom, Terry has also taken seriously his own faith journey, nurturing it through service and also on overnight retreats.
“Out of all of the experiences I’ve had at Ignatius, I would have to say that the Wilderness Retreat has been one of the most impactful if not the most impactful,” he says. “All of the superficial things melted away, and it was just a bunch of guys out there together, talking about all sorts of things—things that were going on in our lives, and questions that we had been pondering.”
Terry himself has wrestled with lots of questions throughout his time as a student at Saint Ignatius. As co-editor-in-chief of The Eye student newspaper, he has spearheaded creative and critical initiatives, putting tough questions before students and congressmen alike.
This winter, Terry interviewed U.S. Representative Anthony Gonzalez ’03 about the future of U.S. democracy live in front of a full audience of students and faculty in The Breen Center for the Performing Arts. In November 2020, he oversaw written and video coverage of a mock election for the student body.
And while these political pieces saw a wide viewership on campus, he spearheaded a number of fun projects, too.
“Our coverage of little things like winning the soccer championship… the fire that we had, the snow day video,” he says, reminiscing. “And I can’t tell you how many conversations we’ve had just brainstorming ideas and doing different things like that long into the night.”
Terry has always had a mind for ideas and for action. He recalls a time in third grade when his school had a snow day and his teacher gave the class three project options for their day off. His topic? Climate change.
“It was the first time that I had heard of the issue, and just doing my own research I was blown away by the reality of it,” he says. “In that moment, I was a third grader so there was nothing crazy that I was going to do but I got a bunch of friends together, and we made up a presentation, and we helped raise some money … for solar panels at our school.”
“That was sort of a very early moment of wanting to get engaged in some way, wanting to make an impact.”
Wisely, Terry knows that to be engaged, one needs to be informed, and he’s a voracious news consumer. He wakes up before 5 a.m. each day to read The Plain Dealer, and The New York Times, and to listen to NPR.
He also understands that all politics is local, and even has been a participant in his Detroit-Shoreway youth leadership program and was, for a time, the lone paid staff member for Cleveland City Councilwoman Jenny Spencer’s election campaign.
Terry’s own keen grasp of politics impelled him to write an essay about Congressman Gonzalez for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library’s Profiles in Courage contest; his composition was selected in the top 25 of nearly 2,500 submissions.
As he prepares to begin his studies at Harvard University, Terry is excited about the lineage of leaders who have graduated from there. It’s safe to say that he aims to be one of them.
“If you think about a school’s track record of producing transformative leaders, Harvard is pretty hard to beat,” he says. “The Roosevelts, FDR, JFK, RFK…so just to be in such a place where you know that these people have gone before you, sort of following in their footsteps is a cool thing.”
But then, naturally, Terry pivots to the things that he has learned about Harvard that the average person probably doesn’t know: That it has one of the only student-run homeless shelters in the U.S., along with 70 different service programs.
He says that he has found a college where he knows he can find a strong and supportive community of peers for whom attendance at one of the most highly regarded universities in the world is not just a mere stepping stone to a flashy job. Terry wants to get involved with The Harvard Crimson and study anything from government to philosophy, history or English—the last of which should make his dad proud!
Really, though, as he heads off into his summer vacation and awaits the collegiate adventure, Terry has a heart full of gratitude for Saint Ignatius High School and the people who made his four years so special.
“I think what really makes Ignatius such an incredible place is all of the amazing people who you just have the opportunity to be with every day, and I think if there’s one thing that you remember about the place it’s not the buildings or even your classes or what grades you got—it’s the people and how they impacted you.”
His advice to aspiring future Valedictorians is surprisingly simple: “Find what you love doing, and do it. Find something that brings your good into the world.”
No doubt, that’s some well-worn advice from a young man who has lived it out himself for the past four years. Congratulations, Terry!
by Connor Walters '09