Imagine an eleven year old little girl from The Bronx who spent 1 hour commuting on the 6 train, out to a cross-town bus and then a 15min walk to this little school on the 5th floor of a walk-up building; was it worth it? Absolutely!
Looking back, I realize how much it helped me get through the challenging pre-teen/teen years. In one word, De La Salle is about community. I was truly home, surrounded by people who did everything to encourage and elevate me. It was more than academics. We were taught about social values, responsibilities, and fellowship.
I have so many amazing memories that range from the occasional kidnapping of Brother Brian’s General Bear (a stuffed animal he kept in his office), to the random toilet papers rolls you would see everywhere (we used them instead of “expensive” tissues in the winter). I always crack a smile when I remember all of Mr. Hipolito’s (Mr. Hip as we lovingly called him) antics in his classes. Just an unmatched group of teachers who dedicated themselves to us.
“It takes a village,” and for a Dominican immigrant with a single mom facing economic challenges, De La Salle was this village. It’s a village which is still part of my life. Many of us go back to reunions, visits with our kids, proctoring their entrance exam, and mentoring younger alumni. Brother Brian and others are part of our biggest life events. One of my favorite pictures of my wedding day is the one of me walking down the aisle while you see Brother Brian, Ms. Bunn, and Brother David on my right side. Brother Brian was my positive male role model (Papa Bear) and everyone deserves to have a Brother Brian in his/her life.
Brother Brian’s philosophy was simple, to strive for our personal best, not compete with other students because we can all achieve success together. The epitome of this is how we chose our valedictorian, not by grades, but the graduation class chooses who had the biggest growth during their De La Salle experience. We were all “gifted” and had the power to achieve anything.
It’s amazing what positive affirmations do to children. At De La Salle, I always felt worthy and that was the biggest take away I had from my journey there. As a small business owner, De La Salle played a critical role developing the “I can do anything,” “I’m worthy” attitude I needed to combat the biases and low expectation associated with an inner city, Bronx raised immigrant female on a successful path. I will be forever grateful.