As our Class of 2018 is about to step into the gymnasium next Sunday for the last time as enrolled Saints, all of us in the St. Thomas Aquinas Community are forced to reflect on the time we spent with these boys and girls, now young men and young women. Like every person, people that work in the world of education sometimes question their impact and influence on these young lives. Are the hours of dedication and heartfelt work worth it? Catholic school educators work tirelessly at lesser pay than public school faculty and staff. They arise every morning and return every year because they believe in not just teaching, but in educating the entire person- mind, body and spirit.
Today, STA received a sincere note from a 2016 graduate and it reinforces, once again, our purpose, our meaning, our mission.
I have been thinking about writing this note for a little over a year- talking to Mr. McCafferty a couple of weeks ago convinced me to do it. I feel that this is an appropriate time (after having just been on the sidelines for the boy’s lacrosse game) for it is my experience at public school that led me to STA.
I don’t really want to go into everything that happened to me when I was at public school, because at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. But it left me defeated inside. I didn’t want to get up for school in the morning because I knew what was waiting for me there. Even at sports, which had always been my refuge, I found nothing but the same pain and sorrow. There was a part of me that honestly wanted to quit.
Then by chance my mom ran into my 6th grade history teacher. She asked my mom where I was going to high school and since my whole family on both sides had gone to public school, she said I was probably going to the local public school. My old teacher told her, “That’s interesting, we usually lose a lot of our smart kids to St. Thomas.” I had lived in my town since I was in 2nd grade and I’d honestly never heard of St. Thomas before that comment. So, I went to an Open House and liked it; I applied and was accepted. I still remember pulling up to school the first day and the teachers outside saying “Welcome home”. Boy, were they right.
The biggest thing St. Thomas Aquinas gave me (that I had never had before) was faith. When I came here, I was not religious at all and (if I had been) I probably would have been bitter about what God had allowed to happen to me. STA gave me a place where I could develop that relationship and it gave me the greatest gift I could have received. It allowed me to realize the blessing hidden in the curse of my middle school experience. I realized that if it were not for those experiences, I never would have ended up at St, Thomas. I never would have been able to become the person I am today. I definitely never would have gone to Gordon College and experienced all the opportunities that I have enjoyed ever since.
When I graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas, the things I learned stayed with me. During my first semester freshman year at college - while all my friends were struggling with their course loads and how to manage their time - I was already used to the level of work expected. I got As on my papers (thanks Mr. Tinney, Ms. Pate, and Mrs. Collins). When I my first lab report was due, everyone came to me because I was the only one who had ever done one. The list goes on and on of ways that STA prepared me for life after high school.
I’ll finish with this, I can say with certainty that St. Thomas saved me. I honestly do not know where I’d be now if I’d never come but I know that it’s not somewhere I’d want to be.
-Jay Gallipo, STA Class of 2016