(This speech was given at the Class of 2023 Commencement Exercises on May 18, 2023. Click here to watch the ceremony. Click here to view the photo album.)
World-renowned French artist Georges Seurat devised a painting technique that uses small dots to create masterpieces.
Fr. Guillermo García-Tuñón, President of Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, Mr. José E.
Roca, Principal, the Honorable Carlos Curbelo, our distinguished guest speaker, Belen
Board of Advisors, Jesuit brothers, administration, alumni association, faculty and staff, families and friends, and those who couldn’t be here today, I am humbled to represent our class. We are the class of 2023.
I would like to dedicate a brief moment of silence for our brother Anthony Parodi and the Parodi Family.
Allow me the opportunity to highlight some of Belen’s “unsung heroes”: Mr. Blas Liste, Mr.
Lázaro Saldaña, Richard Moncada, Betty Fuentes, Jessica Barzaga, Yanisley Martínez, Erick
Wedlow, and the rest of the maintenance and Sage dining crew at Belen. These were the
individuals who maintained the grounds and nourished our bodies daily in order for us to reach our full potential. I can assure you all that this was no small task. It is no coincidence that we are one of, if not the only class at Belen that has created a personal relationship with several members that work in our dining hall and maintenance departments.
You see, it's little things that kept the class of 2023 going. It’s the little things.
God has selected this group of young men, this band of brothers, to be one that has hearts that are burning with a desire to change the world. A “unit” that stays true to its values and is ready for a challenge at any moment. They say God gives His toughest battles to His toughest soldiers. And boy, has this band of brothers endured its share of battles.
Our first year of high school was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the
challenges presented by COVID paled in comparison to the struggles our brother Anthony
Parodi was facing as he battled for his life. Zoom classes physically separated us during this
time, and we turned to our faith through Zoom rosaries for Anthony’s healing to unite us once again. Eventually, we would line up together to bid farewell to our brother. Despite this tremendous loss, Anthony’s legacy continues on in the beauty of a simple orange ribbon. It’s the little things.
As if losing Anthony wasn’t enough, our dear friends from Lourdes and Carrollton would be
involved in a tragic accident, and Lucy Fernández would pass away our senior year. A few days later, many of us gathered to watch the sunrise in Lucy’s honor. I will never forget how a group of us Belen brothers, in the midst of just the sound of waves crashing against the shore, began to proudly sing the Salve Regina as we searched for strength in this difficult time. It’s the little things.
These moments are depictive of the strength and unity of the class of 2023. Our class has
bounced back from adversity and found the light in difficult situations like none other in the
history of Belen.
It wasn’t only challenges that brought this band of brothers together in the past seven years. We have been blessed with many memorable moments. Who can forget the first, and last Wolverine weekend? Now boys, isn’t that something to remember? How about Jac Costa getting his foot stuck in a desk in Father Minsal’s class, and Mr. Chaney using soap to release him? Or Blasco’s speech at senior gratitude, where this once quiet kid put his Belen pride on full display? The mosh pits in CloseUp, the running to the field during lunch, Mr. De Angulo’s “Coro, cut it out!” It’s the little things.
And how about our athletic teams like Cross Country and Crew, securing another state title, as well as the first-ever basketball state championship? At this moment, would my senior
basketball teammates please rise to be recognized. This team was led by seven seniors, Coach Gastón “Chachi” Rodríguez, John-Paul “JP” Méndez, Angel Caballero, the rest of the coaching staff, and some divine intervention of a little putback. And in true Belen fashion, we sent seven buses of fans to Lakeland and unprecedentedly canceled class in celebration.
It was truly amazing to experience the power that comes from the support of a community
wanting to see a “little” team succeed. This is true about all aspects of our formation at Belen, as we are prepared not only to excel in academics and in sports, but in our faith and as “men for others.” Because as Father Willie said, “What good is it to send our kids to Harvard if we can’t get them into Heaven?”
As we move forward, I encourage you to strive for excellence in all that you do. Push
yourself; live out the Magis. However, along this journey, let us not forget that leading by example, as Jesus calls us to do, is more rewarding than leading by title.
Although the future is full of uncertainties, one thing remains certain: you can always fall back on your Jesuit education and foundation. We have to thank our parents and grandparents for their ongoing support and endless sacrifices to provide us with the best choice for our formation in education, faith, and brotherhood. We realize that a Belen tuition is definitely not a little thing.
My brothers, your education at Belen is not a little thing either. The hard work and sacrifices by the two-sport athletes, the top 1% of students, and those who participate in
extracurriculars that extend beyond Belen’s campus, are all being recognized as you walk across this stage. Because of these sacrifices, our class has earned nearly $16 million in
scholarship awards. Many have been accepted to some of the top schools across the country and abroad, including six Ivy League institutions, and will continue to dedicate themselves to a life of service as a cadet, seminarian, and a first-responder. All these great achievements we celebrate tonight.
I would like to thank some special individuals who have been pivotal to the Class of 2023’s
formation: Brother Hunter, Mrs. Basso, Ms. Busto and the college counseling department, Father Cartaya, Mr. Marrero, and our beloved counselor Ralf Ledesma. Ralf, please do not send us another grade-wide email after tonight.
To my parents and family, you truly don’t get enough credit for the formation of the young man I am today. I thank you for opening my eyes to always seek what is best for the group, not an individual in it.
Although the future will bring many more moments, we will never forget the daily moments that made the Class of 2023 the best band of Brothers ever to exist.
So as you enter the prestigious Belen Alumni Association tonight, always remember that like Georges Seurat, it is the little things that will create your life’s masterpiece.
Would my brothers of the class of 2023 please rise and join me in singing the Salve Regina one
Our Lady of Belen…Pray for us!