For cousins Rafael Perez Rios and Sebastian Andrade, it was not a direct path to St. Vincent de Paul High School. They both attended Rincon Valley Middle School Matanzas Charter in Santa Rosa and then matriculated to Montgomery High School.
After an uninspiring freshman year impacted Covid-19 Manuel Andrade, Sebastian’s father and Rafael’s uncle, turned to Principal Patrick W. Daly of St. Vincent de Paul High School. After many heartfelt discussions and interviews with the boys, need-based financial aid was secured to make this opportunity possible. Mr. Daly revealed, “I was impressed with these boys. They committed to work hard and strive to meet the mission of the school.”
“I choose St. Vincent’s for Sebastian and Rafael because it will prepare them for any university they wish to attend and for life beyond school. There is a common purpose between the parents, teachers and students. This is a school that provides not only a great education, but they teach respect for everyone regardless of gender, race or economic status,” Manuel shared. “St. Vincent’s is a small school environment that is focused exclusively on their students. The teachers and students motivate each other…and now these boys wake up every morning and actually look forward to going to school.”
“SUCCESS IN SCHOOL IS A CHOICE”
Rafael stated that he “chose to transfer to St. Vincent de Paul High School because I knew it would provide me a better chance for me to attend a good university. There was a time that I wasn’t even considering going to college. Being surrounded by new friends focused on academics has really helped this year.” His cousin Sebastian added, “St. Vincent’s has made school feel more like a choice than an obligation.”
Rafael continued, “The students at St. Vincent’s are just amazing. The staff and teachers were so welcoming. Right away, I really feel connected to them and now, actually enjoy going to school. At Montgomery, I will admit, I didn’t care about school…but now having classmates who care, that makes me want to be the best I can be.”
The boys discussed feeling more connected to teachers; both with their schoolwork and to confide in outside the classroom. They noted the availability of office hours, study halls and feeling more confident participating in class. Sharing their sentiments about playing both football, with coach Trent Herzog and basketball, with coach Tom Bonfigli brought the most excitement — you can read more about Coach Bonfigli here.
TEAM + COMMUNITY
The long-time Cardinal Newman High School teacher and coach Tom Bonfigli is now in his second year leading the St. Vincent’s basketball program. Rafael contributed that “Mr. Bonfigli said that my cousin and I were one of the best things that has happened to him at St. Vincent de Paul High School. It really touched my heart.”
Rafael added that “ I struggle with my emotions and it has a positive impact for me. During the football season, I’ve never felt more a part of a team. I love how much help and resources they give you.” Sebastian said that he thinks “St. Vincent’s does a much better job of helping you as an individual, showing you how to be successful, and just being there for you when you need it. At a larger school, it felt like teachers were just focused on getting through the material…now, I feel like they care and are helping me to understand it.
“It is easy to find the great students at St. Vincent’s; but on a high school campus, a teacher is lucky to meet some truly great kids. Rafael is one of those students for me,” said Adriana Rios, his Spanish teacher. “In just a few months since he arrived on our campus, he has lots of friends, is an active participant in class, is exceptionally polite and very respectful. He is working hard, putting in the effort and doing great.”
It must be a family trait because the World History teacher Oliver Hunt noted that Sebastian is “polite, very mature and in a class of mostly boys, he is calming and handles himself with excellent comportment.”
NEW OPPORTUNITIES AND GOALS
Manuel shared this about his nephew; “Since we made the change to St. Vincent de Paul High School, Rafael has changed in every way, a complete transformation, a totally different kid. His path has not been easy and he is still learning to overcome personal challenges. But St. Vincent’s has given him the stability he has been looking for. He has found his motivation to succeed and wants to not only pursue a professional career, but to make a contribution to society.”
Rafael shared his new goal of becoming an architect and advice for high school students considering where to attend high school. “My advice is don’t focus so much on where your friends are going but focus on the academics of the school and the opportunity to meet new people.”
In regards to his son Sebastian, Manuel proudly said, that “he has become more responsible towards trying to be an overall better student, he has been putting all of his effort in doing his school work with time and with effort. For the first time in his life, he has been studying in advance for his tests, not just the night before. He wants to do the best he can to attend college and study to be an agriculture engineer for the family business.”
Manuel Andrade concluded by sharing, “We chose St. Vincent de Paul High School because so many people had great things to say about the school. Despite my high expectations, it is even better than I imagined. Even though this is our first year, I also feel very welcomed as a parent. I am beyond grateful that both Sebastian and Rafael are a part of the St. Vincent’s community.”
We recognize it is not easy to transfer to a new school, to make new friends and increase your academic rigor. The last two years we have seen high levels of interest in students looking to transfer to St. Vincent de Paul High School. To arrange a confidential consultation or schedule a student shadow day for your student, please contact Admissions Director, Kerry Pedersen (SVHS, Class of ‘89) at 707-763-1032 x113 or firstname.lastname@example.org