My mother had first heard of De La Salle Academy from a friend and thought it would be a good idea for me to apply. So when the opportunity to attend for my Seventh Grade year arose, I accepted without hesitation. Three-hour commutes on a yellow school bus to lower Manhattan turned into forty-five minutes on the LIRR and the E-train to 42nd Street. Concrete and metal gates turned into a red-brick building. And gone was the gymnasium— in its place were six daunting flights of stairs. Although De La Salle had many physical changes to what I was accustomed to, it was the learning happening on the inside that made all the difference.
My first reaction upon learning about the Elements of Community was hesitation. Growing up as a lower-income person of color, I was taught often to look after myself because no one else would. This led me to doubt that three simple principles of Care, Support, and Respect would create an inclusive and empathetic environment. I was quickly proven wrong. Each day, as I entered the school, I was greeted with warm hugs and firm handshakes that immediately made me feel welcomed. Smiles were on students’ and teachers’ faces. Kids from all different walks of life were hanging out together. And laughter filled Carson Hall. The community at De La Salle became my second family.
The longer I continued on my two-year journey, the more I tried to embrace and internalize all the lessons I learned from others. From Dr. Gonzalez, I learned maturity; from Mr. McCaughley, I learned courage; and from Brother Brian, I learned humility. Those three values, in addition to the Elements of Community, soon became ones that I added to my own life and tried to actively demonstrate every day. I was able to develop my own sense of a moral compass at such a young age, and this proved valuable later on.
As I made the transition from De La Salle to Episcopal High School— a boarding school located in Alexandria, Virginia— I brought the values I had learned with me. And in my classes, clubs, and extracurricular activities, I applied them. Care allowed me to empathize with people other than myself. Support allowed me to stand up for others when they could not stand up for themselves. And Respect allowed me to treat everyone with equity. Those values helped me to truly become a servant-leader on campus. And with the help of the moral compass I developed at De La Salle, I was able to lead with honor and courage.
Today, I look forward to collegiate life at the University of Virginia. I plan on majoring in Chemistry with a minor in Religious Studies. And although I know that it will be a different (and quite frankly, much larger) environment than De La Salle or Episcopal, I know that the values I learned at De La Salle will always be with me no matter where I am.