I grew up in Astoria, Queens and enrolled at De La Salle for my 7th grade year. My dad had read about the school in a local newspaper and was convinced it was the school for me (and my cousin Adrian, who I grew up with and would enroll the same year as me in the 6th grade) – he was impressed by both the academic rigor and the sense of community it fostered. For me, the most important lesson that was pressed upon me immediately was being responsible for something beyond myself. Prior to DLSA, school was a place where I learned and made friends, but it was never a community or a family where I was responsible to it. That changed the first day I walked those 7-8(!) flights of steps to get to our “little school house.”
My teachers and mentors were all impactful and memorable but to highlight a few: Mr. Marrero fueled my love for Literature and introduced me to Shakespeare, and on the day I graduated, he wrote in my “autograph book” that the world needs “good people, good people like you, to help make a difference.” There is hardly a day that goes by that I do not think about what he wrote.
Mr. Hipolito will always be special to me. He was the best Spanish teacher I ever had. He was Filipino like me and lived in Queens so he immediately became a Tito to me (uncle in Tagalog/Filipino). And he helped me perfect my jump-shot and cross-over dribble! The younger alumni may not know this but Mr. Hip was a phenomenal athlete; he used to take a bunch of us to the gym next door and we would have these epic hour-long pick-up basketball games where he would absolutely run us off the court!
I have so many happy De La Salle memories but I will always remember fondly the times when Brother Brian and some of us boys would throw a baseball around right outside the school. Brother Brian is a huge baseball fan. He even taught me how to throw a curveball during one of these sessions (sadly, I had little success with this pitch when I was on my high school baseball team, ha!). During these times, he would always ask me how things were going or take it as an opportunity to impart the values he wanted us to take when we left. I cherish those memories because it truly encapsulates what makes our school so unique – it wasn’t just a place to learn academically, but it was also a place to grow as a person, and it wasn’t just a school but a family instead.
After DLSA, I went on to Choate Rosemary Hall, a boarding school in Connecticut. I went to the University of Pennsylvania for my BA, and then to the Kellogg School of Management for my MBA. I always felt well-prepared both academically and psychologically for the rigors of these institutions, and that was all because of DLSA. Even more important, DLSA gave me the moral compass that I leaned on as I progressed through these institutions, and it still serves to guide me today.
I started my career as an investment banker on Wall Street, as I joined Morgan Stanley after college. Eventually, I transitioned into becoming a client of institutions such as Morgan Stanley, as I am now an investment professional for CarVal Investors, a $10 billion-dollar hedge fund / asset manager. Also, it is one of my great honors to be a Board Member of the school, a role that has special significance to me as an alumnus. I feel blessed that I can serve DLSA in this way, given how much the school has given me.
Now and more than ever, a school like DLSA is even more relevant and necessary. DLSA was a life changing opportunity for me as it opened doors that I could only have dreamed of. The school is a great equalizer, affording opportunities students wouldn’t have otherwise. But what it ingrained in me went beyond academics and personal opportunities; it left me with values that I still hold dear and continue to guide me as an adult, a sense of duty to make my community a better place, the courage and fortitude to never take the easy way out, and the importance of living a life with a purpose beyond my own personal ambitions. We live in turbulent times, so the values that DLSA students carry with them are even more crucial as we tackle today’s challenges.