My name is Octavio Adrian Brindis and I am a proud CRSM alum, class of 2010. I still cannot believe that I was a high school freshman over 10 years ago. Today, I am a ninth grade teacher. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. But, I just can’t imagine having a freshman version of me in class. My freshman year, I remember trying to adjust to the new uniform requirements and to the high academic expectations, but I never could have imagined where I would be 10 years later.
Less than one out of 10 students growing up in low-income communities will graduate from college by the time they are 25. While the odds were against me, I knew that I had the dream of one day attending college. This dream started becoming more realistic once I began attending CRSM, because my elementary or middle school teachers didn’t really talk about college as an option. Although neither of my parents graduated from college, I knew that I was at the right place at CRSM because of the caring teachers, faculty, and administrators.
Tonight I am very blessed to be here tonight surrounded by so many people who have made an impact in my life. Including one of my best friends from Cristo Rey, Esme Silva, who has a Master’s from the University of Illinois/Chicago and was a Marquette Urban Scholar.
In life, we are sometimes so worried about the small things that we forget to thank people who changed our lives. I am grateful to have this opportunity to thank this individual for the impact he has made in my life. His name is Dr. Michael Odiotti, (principal CRSM) or “Mr. O” for short. It is because of Cristo Rey and “Mr. O” that college became an opportunity for someone like me.
“Mr. O” was not afraid to ask the tough questions. I remember him asking me if I would go to Boston College if I was offered a full ride scholarship. During this time, I really wanted to go Notre Dame so I asked, “What’s the difference between BC and Notre Dame?” I know this may upset some people, but he said that they were “the same”. Of course, I now understand that they are both excellent Catholic institutions of higher education but also, I realized that “Mr. O” wanted to guide my thinking in the “right” direction, the school where he had gone – BC!
“Mr. O.” I don’t know if you know this or not, but when I received the large white envelope from Boston College and I was freaking out… you were the first person I wanted to get a hold of on the telephone. Not only because you’re a BC alum, but also because I knew that you would be happy for me.
But “Mr. O’s” support did not end on the day of my high school graduation. During my junior year of college, I knew that I could still count on him and I asked him if he could write me a letter of recommendation for “Teach For America.”
He reached out to wish me luck on my interview and of course, he also reached out when I found out I was accepted. I continue to reach out to him when I need help because if there is someone that knows about education it is “Mr. O.” This was especially helpful when I first started teaching. The only time I have hesitated reaching out to him was earlier this year when I was trying to make the difficult decision of continuing to teach in Milwaukee or to continue my education. The only reason I did not reach out to him is because I knew what he would tell me. “Mr. O,” I almost applied to Penn State where you received your doctorate, but it was either spending time with the Liberty Bell or the Statue of Liberty… Therefore, I have not publicly shared this (not even on Facebook), but I am happy to say that I will be starting my doctoral program in education at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City this coming Fall.
The words of the Cristo Rey mission also became very important to me, I internalized them and try to use them as my guide for life: “Be a person for others. Be work prepared and college ready.”
I never could have imagined where I would be 10 years after high school. College became a reality, I’ve taught through Teach for America, studied to obtain two Master’s degrees in education at Marquette and UW Milwaukee, and am now working at a startup high school in Milwaukee teaching kids just like me.
Now college is a word my family talks about all the time. My parents sacrificed greatly for myself and my siblings to make this our reality and to them I am very grateful as well. I’ve been blessed to fulfill one dream, to teach, and now, I’m going to go after the second one, a doctorate, the kind of doctor that gives hope to young people, just like “Mr. O” did for me.
Today, I am here to share with you all a part of my story and how others, like Mr. Odiotti, has made an impact on my life. It’s amazing how we have the power to truly make an impact, a difference in the life of others even if we do not immediately see the results.
Standing in this building today really makes me think of the larger impact “Mr. O” and CRSM will have on the life of others including my two younger sisters who are currently attending CRSM and my brother who graduated from here too! I want to make sure that my message is clear. Thank you “Mr. O” for being an exceptional human being and for making a difference in the lives of many students, including mine.