As we watch our students cross the stage next Friday at the Strand Theater, the faculty and staff will be thinking about how each has grown during their four years at our school.

Let me tell you about one young man, Ariel Soto, who lives with his Mom, four siblings, including a 14-month old sister, and the father of the 14-month old. His Dad left when he was in grade school, and he sees him on occasion. Ariel was born in Boston, but his first language was Spanish. For a few years, the family moved back to the Dominican Republic.

Ariel struggled when he first got to Cristo Rey and had many meetings with the principal and dean as he adjusted to high school.

In his sophomore year, he was placed at athenahealth in Watertown in the office services department. “I was immature when I went there,” he told me. “But, I liked the work and the people.”

Ariel was responsible for creating generic labels and tracking packages from UPS and FedEx that came to the company. He mailed items, set up rooms for meetings, assisted with Audio Visual presentations and did other work. “I learned how to help our customers and how to speak with people of high importance in the company,” he explained.

At the same time that he switched to athenahealth, he started to take school more seriously and began spending time with a group of friends who were thinking carefully about their future. “I wasn’t in the best crowd when I came here,” he said. “When I started hanging around with people in college or who wanted to go to college, everything changed.”

Ariel also has an interest in cars, and I’m the son of an auto repair/tire dealer, so we had a good talk the other day. When he turned 16, Ariel made some money, learned to drive, and bought a 1993 Honda Civic. He fixed it up, sold it, and bought another car. He did the same with that one and several others, and now he’s driving a car made in the 21st century, a 2001 VW.

Ariel explained that he really wants to learn about computer systems in cars and go into the automobile business in some capacity. He’s looking at several colleges where he can study cars and learn about management. He will make a choice soon based on the best financial aid package.

What makes us most proud is Ariel’s self-knowledge. He spoke a few weeks ago at an assembly about his growth at Cristo Rey, the mistakes he made, and what he learned. He knows who he is now, and he has an academic foundation to turn his passion into something meaningful.

I asked Ariel what his life would be like if he hadn’t attended Cristo Rey Boston High School, and he said he probably wouldn’t be going to college and might not have stayed in school.

When you support Cristo Rey Boston, you help young people like Ariel discover who they are and what they can do with their lives if they put their minds to it. A small investment can really change a life here. We see it in Ariel and all of his classmates.

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