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Dear Saint Patrick – Oscar De Leon ’18

Dear Saint Patrick,

It seems like only yesterday I was at an Open House at Saint Patrick in 2011 with my brother and was in awe and wonder. It’s hard to believe that roughly three years later I was approached by Dr. Schmidt when he heard about my decision to potentially attend Lane Tech. Before this meeting occurred, I was in awe of Dr. Schmidt’s dedication to future Shamrocks. After the meeting, I was hooked. I knew this would be the place for me. Graduating from public school, I had no idea what to expect from a private Catholic education. Was everyone going to be snobby, stuck-up, and entitled? These private school stereotypes were immediately crushed during my first day as a freshman. The community seemed very welcoming and open. Many people have said this but it’s true. Besides being able to bring my academic and music skills to St. Pat’s and expand them, I truly found a second home.

Since freshmen year, the band room has been my second home. It is through band that I met my first friends. These are the friends who I shared many crazy experiences throughout many band experiences. It was also the first year I was exposed to playing jazz music, which scared me because I was so used to playing concert band. As the year went on, I did something I thought I would never do: try something new. St. Pat’s made me feel comfortable with myself, so I decided to try out for the swim team. Though my coaches tell me that they were worried about having to jump in to save me, I fought through the struggles of being a swimmer. The season was rough but I believe I came out a stronger person. I’m still surprised that I never gave up, despite hearing from some that I should. The following year I made varsity. In the classroom, I was exposed to a different learning style. Honors courses pushed me to work harder. Being in a math class full of sophomores also gave me an incentive to try even harder. Freshmen year taught me to not be afraid of new things. This is the single most important lesson I have learned at St. Pat’s

It was important for me to hold on to this lesson because during sophomore year my home life took a turn for the worst. My father ended up taking work in Schenectady, New York, leaving me in Chicago with my mom and brother. This lifestyle scared me but I knew my father just wanted to support my brother and I at St. Pat’s. It was hard living like this. I had band and swimming to occupy me but I was dreading my home life. The majority of my time was spent at school. I took the opportunity to open up to many people and the response I received from many of my fellow Shamrocks shocked me. When I needed comfort, my fellow Shamrocks reached out to me. It was then that I realized what the Brotherhood was. I remember freshmen year hearing a faculty member say something that went kind of like this: “St. Pat’s is where you’re going to find your brothers. These are the guys you’re going to have your laughs and your tears with.” No other words could describe any better what the Brotherhood means to me. It was my brothers at St. Pat’s who got me through such a difficult time in my life. It is my brothers at St. Pat’s who still get me through life at home and at school.

Brotherhood will mean something different to every Shamrock, and that’s not a bad thing. Some choose to believe in it, others don’t. I’m not going to lie, I, myself, was a strong believer against the Brotherhood at one point in time. A lot of things happened to me academically, physically, and mentally during my junior year that made me question my loyalty to St. Pat’s. It was also this year that I started developing a serious shoulder injury that marred my swimming ability. On top of that, I dealt with the foreclosure of my house. These things made me lose faith in St. Pat’s but my friends, my brothers, helped me get through this time. Many of them felt the same way I did but somehow we survived to the end of the year with the hope of a better future.

The beginning of my senior year went very well. In September 2017, I had the pleasure of experiencing Kairos, a retreat I would have never gone to had it not been mandatory. Opening myself up to the experience brought me at peace with myself and made me more appreciative of the life I am given. I loved it so much that I asked to lead, which I did in February 2018. Kairos is one of the things at St. Pat’s I will forever be grateful for. Things took a nosedive when I had to leave the swim team due to my injury. Though it hurt losing the team, I still had brothers elsewhere to pick me up. Now, as I complete my senior year, I look back on everything that happened my junior year and realize what I learned. Instead of losing faith, my faith should have been stronger. Now I understand that when times are tough, faith will always be there to help you get by.

I have learned a lot at St. Pat’s, all at a great cost. During my senior exit interview with Brother David, I was amazed at how much I have changed. As he handed me my freshmen survey, I remember thinking, “It’s pretty crazy to see how every answer to these questions has changed dramatically.” Brother David responded with, “Well imagine if they hadn’t changed! I would be terrified!” I have truly matured at St. Pat’s, through my great times and my hardships. Mr. Paul Benson once wrote to me, “This current hardship will make you a stronger person longer term.” I believe it has. The successes I earned at St. Pat’s came through hardships. It is rough, but these hardships taught me life lessons I will never forget. Fourteen-year old me would be too stubborn to try new things and to have faith. Fourteen-year old me would give up and stick to what he knows. Freshmen year me took everything for granted and now I hold back tears knowing that everything I do at St. Pat’s will be the last time. I take in every moment now because I know I will never get an experience like St. Pat’s. One of the moments I will never forget was hijacking the Spring 2018 Jazz Concert and playing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” as a farewell to the band seniors (Sorry Mr. Glowinski).

I cannot tell you if I’m ready for life because I don’t know what life is going to throw at me.  What I can tell you is that my maturity due to St. Pat’s will prepare me to take on any challenge. I’ll no longer have to worry about facing Mr. Kohl’s impossible math class but I’ll have to worry about getting my taxes done. What St. Pat’s has made Oscar Benjamin De Leon is a responsible, hardworking, caring, young man who will live in the moment and have faith. I cannot thank this school enough for the opportunities it has presented me. I cannot wait to take what I have learned and make an even greater man of myself at Northwestern University for the next four years.

Go Shamrocks!

Oscar De Leon ‘18

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