The following speech was delivered by Tony Huerta-Apanco ’18 during Tuesday Chapel on September 13 on former SSM athlete and current U.S. Paralympian Sean Boyle ’13.
Photo courtesy of US Soccer
According to Webster’s Dictionary, perseverance is defined as “a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.” All around campus I see acts of perseverance happen everyday. We all work to be the best at what we do, facing challenge after challenge, while managing to stick to our goals. This act of perseverance soon became something that I thought of as normal. It was not until this last summer that an act of perseverance stood out to me.
Coming to Shattuck my eighth grade year was overwhelming. Not knowing anyone in particular, while also playing soccer with guys that were two years older than me, I always felt some sort of intimidation from the older guys, especially the eighteens. One individual for some unknown reason always managed to greet me in a kind way. Sean Boyle was a postgraduate goalkeeper whom I rarely came across in the halls and even at School, but every time we came across each other he would always give a nice gesture.
Fast-forwarding to the following year, Sean was set to play Division 1 soccer at Hartwick College, but soon after decided to transfer to San Diego State University. It was at this point that Sean was ready to keep playing and progress as a player at the Division 1 level. This was when Sean noticed something peculiar. After his first few weeks playing, he started to feel numbness in his right thumb. Not really paying attention to this because he was somewhat used to hand injuries, he thought of it as nothing. Eventually, this numbness spread throughout his body, and a trip to the hospital revealed that there was a ventricular cavernous malformation (VCM) that had an 85% chance of it popping, which would lead to immediate death. This required surgery immediately and doctors said that he may never get a chance to play soccer again.
Facing challenges may seem insuperable, but what Sean went through really changed my perspective on things. Seeing what he had to go through, and the difficulty behind it, was hard. Why did someone like him have to go through such a tragedy? One thing was for sure; Sean did not let this hold him back. Through all the difficulties of being in the hospital, relearning the basics of life, and realizing how close to death he was, Sean showed the true definition of perseverance by never giving up and becoming a stronger person.
Although many of you do not have a clue of who Sean is, I decided to share this story because he is a Shattuck alum and his story should be looked upon from other people. This past summer as I was scrolling through social media, I came across something that was heartwarming. It was news about the United States Paralympic National Soccer Team that had qualified to play in Rio. After all of the struggles, Sean managed to become a Paralympic athlete and is currently representing the United States. This stood as a reminder to me that while tough times will come our way, how we get back up from them is what defines us, not the struggle itself. Knowing that we have people around us to boost our confidence and an environment in which people care, gives us the power and courage to fight back. Our job is to overcome our own doubt, fear, and outside negativity so that we can reach our goal- just like Sean did.
Click here to read more about Boyle and the US Paralympic Soccer Team.