As talented as he is humble, Lakeside School senior, Sebastian Alfonso has a future of limitless potential in his academic, athletic and professional endeavors. As he continues to develop his leadership skills on the track, in the pool and at school, Sebastian looks back on his time at St. Thomas School (STS) with gratitude for its role in shaping his confidence and providing him with the humility to ask for a helping hand.
Unlike many students, Sebastian had the pleasure of attending STS twice. He joined the school in the second grade, but when his mother's work called his family to the East Coast, he attended third and fourth grade in New Jersey. After two years away, he returned to STS in the fifth grade, a year that, Sebastian shared, was rough for him.
It was through the support and friendship of the teachers at STS that he was able to adjust comfortably back into the school. "I was becoming increasingly isolated and closing in on myself," shared Sebastian. "Mr. Atkinson spoke to me and became a true friend for me during a time when I didn't want to ask for help. He was an incredible teacher and a great influence."
In addition to the unhindered support from his teachers, Sebastian created strong bonds with his classmates. While many students might be nervous transferring from a larger school to a smaller one, as Sebastian did when moving from New Jersey back to STS, he embraced STS' small class sizes, and seized it as an opportunity to develop meaningful connections with other students during breaks, at chapel, and through other school programs. "The fact that we were able to connect with people made it seem not so isolated," shared Sebastian.
It was at STS where Sebastian developed his public speaking abilities and learned to be a leader.
"I am grateful for the amount of public speaking practice STS gave me," shared Sebastian. "Standing in front of everyone at chapel to read the ceremony in the morning, or doing more formal presentations in school, there were ample opportunities to have my voice heard by many people. I'm very thankful for that."
With a strong aptitude for leadership and public speaking, and building on his experience as last year's student body Treasurer at Lakeside School, Sebastian was elected as Lakeside's student body President for his senior year.
Each of his Lakeside election speeches have been clever and creative; one even involved flying mini pigs (yes, pigs!), and the other featured a life-size poster cut-out of himself. "I was looking for some way to end it with a bang," he chuckled.
Despite the wit and charisma demonstrated in his speeches, Sebastian was drawn to Lakeside's student government with a strategic and serious objective. "At Lakeside there was a stigma that student government has little ability to make change," shared Sebastian. "I had heard this from many students, and [changing this perception] was something I mentioned in my speech would be one of my key initiatives."
Determined to create this change, when Sebastian was elected Treasurer in his junior year, he began implementing plans that would make the financial decision-making of school clubs and programs more visible to students. For example, he encouraged the school paper, The Tatler, to publish financial updates regarding the student government's projects; this initiative provided other students with transparency around the allocation of school funding and visibility into the school's investment in its programs.
In addition to pursuing student leadership opportunities, Sebastian is also a member of the swim, cross country, and track and field teams. Citing his ability to manage his busy schedule, dividing his time between school, leadership and athletics, Sebastian is appreciative for the many ways STS prepared him for life beyond Eighth Grade.
For instance, STS helped Sebastian develop the perseverance required to face and overcome failures.
"I really used to hate [running]," said Sebastian, "but in seventh grade, Mrs. Kearney made me love it. Mrs. Kearney made certain that everyone had the training that they needed to improve and took the time to personally connect with each of the athletes. I felt like I was wanted there."
Mrs. Kearney mentored Sebastian as he gained stamina and the ability to handle increasingly difficult workouts. "She encouraged me to run, even when other people may have been telling me that it would be a bad idea, or that it was too long of a distance. She continually challenged me in ways that I thought I couldn't handle, but after trying and trying, I found myself able to exceed my expectations because of her support."
Mrs. Kearney's leadership and influence not only shaped Sebastian into a strong and dedicated athlete, it influenced him to seek mentoring opportunities within his teams and in the community. "This past year, I had the pleasure of tutoring a young boy from Rainier Scholars. It was a joy to grow close to him and watch him improve, and that experience has permanently marked me."
What advice would Sebastian give to current STS students?
"Be curious and enjoy your education because it's not something you'll be able to come back to. It's an incredible experience and one you should make the most of in whatever way you can. In the moments at STS I don't think I realized what a tremendous impact it would have on me. Looking back, I can see how the seedlings of who I am and what I've become were planted during my time there."