For my very first day at De La Salle Academy (DLSA), I decided I wanted to wear a fedora. Twelve-year-old me realized immediately that this was a questionable decision, as everyone told me I looked like Michael Jackson in his later years. I resolved to make better decisions after that.
What I remember most fondly from DLSA was the faculty. Mr. Hip (Mr. Hernando Hipolito) was my homeroom teacher…he was an institution, that man! I loved Tell Us A Story with Ms. Olsen. I remember that being a lot of fun and kind of chaotic, with so many kids learning to exercise the creative parts of their brains. I had Geography with Ms. Dafna, and she would always say, “Geography is destiny.” I still think about that today while reading the news and political trends; that concept had staying power with me.
I’ll never forget my first math test with Brother David. I absolutely tanked it. I thought I was hot stuff coming in, and I was humbled very quickly by that test. I had never failed like that before. Brother David wanted to see me. I was shaking all day. When I went to see him the next morning, he walked me through the test, and, after that, I went first thing every day to say good morning to him. That experience informed how I approached my relationships with adults going forward.
Brother Brian was the linchpin in many ways. I hung off every word he said. He told us that the people we were going to be in life would be cemented in middle school. I took that very seriously. I also had great admiration and respect for Mr. McCaughley, and loved the time I got to spend with him, learning about his interesting hobbies (he bred show Dalmatians, for example), and the occasional clue about his punk rock teenage years.
I met Dr. Tapscott (then Mr. Tapscott!) during orientation. He took on the role of being the shepherd for my year. He ran the 8th grade boys homeroom, and was always very approachable and down to earth. In my previous school, we had done math somewhat off kilter, so I took 7th grade math as 6th grader. Since I was ahead of my classmates, math in my 8th grade year was just Dr. Tapscott and myself. We spent a lot of time together one-on-one, and he was a foundational figure for me in my De La Salle experience.
The most memorable lesson I learned at DLSA was the value of community. I chose a smaller scale high school and college because of how much I appreciated that experience. It gave me a thirst for the smallest classes possible to maximize my one-on-one time with the instructor. This can be daunting in a lot of circumstances, but I loved it from an academic perspective. These community-oriented experiences, instilled in me during my time at DLSA, taught me to build confidence and humility in equal doses.
In general, my DLSA experience made me think critically about my place in the world and how I treat other people. It gave me a sense of service. For example, in our Social Justice class, we visited temporary shelters, churches, and nursing homes to spend time with the folks in those places. It was about learning to think about your life as something not just for you. Now I work in public service, because I want to do the most good with the amount of time I have. Since my time at DLSA, I have approached everything I’ve done with a community mindset. Whenever he addressed us, Brother Brian would do this hand gesture to symbolize the whole community. To this day, that plays in the back of my head when I’m making decisions.
I am incredibly grateful for what I learned at DLSA, and happy to know that the legacy still continues. With Dr. Gonzalez at the helm now, I’m happy to see it kept in the family.