Boston, MA — On Saturday November 16th, Boston Latin School awarded BYW Founder José Valenzuela ‘03 as their 2019 Outstanding Recent Graduate at the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel in front of 400 attendees. The award is given each year to a recent graduate for their outstanding accomplishment and service to their community and/or alma mater.
This was a historic night and achievement. In the 384 year history of the school, no Latinx graduate had ever been honored with an award like this. Until now. Other notable alumni from the nation’s oldest public school include Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Benjamin Franklin (all signers of the Declaration of Independence), as well as Leonard Bernstein (world-renowned composer) and Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of President John F. Kennedy. Boston Latin School is where our founder honed his craft as a wrestler and where his fire was lit to battle injustice. Years later, José has continued that fight to improve the lives of children in Boston through the sport of wrestling.
See below for more photos from the event, and read below for an excerpt from José’s speech that night.
It’s an understatement to say that this is an honor I never expected to receive as a student.
When I entered Boston Latin School, the courts that year would strike down racial quotas in the exam school admission process, making my class one of the last to enter under the old system. BLS was an easy place to feel lost and unwelcome in no small part because no one believed I was deserving of my seat. Going to Latin School is tough; being Latino at Latin School is really tough. And yet, I am here because of the opportunities the school provided me. During my sixie year, when I heard the homeroom announcements over the intercom for middle school wrestling tryouts, I rushed down to sign up, only to find out I was the only 7th grader to show up and that coach wanted me (all 90 pounds at the time) to be on varsity!
But that decision to wrestle would ultimately change my life and put me on this path that I continue today to use the sport of wrestling to transform the lives of young people across this city. And because of music and band with Mr. Pitts, and football with Coach Nieves and Coach Gio, and because of TAG (the Talented and Gifted club) with Mr. Fernandez, Mr. Luis, and Mr. Aversa, and because of the Maple Leaf Exchange trips to Canada with Mr. Fulton, and because of Coach Fortune, Coach Azer and Coach Gibbons for wrestling, I can look back at all of the amazing opportunities afforded to me as a BLS student — and I can also know that there are kids all across this city that don’t have the opportunities I had, which is why I continue to fight everyday to make a difference.