Students at Corpus Christi School in Manhattan have an excellent role model in Harry LaRosiliere, an alumnus who was recently elected Mayor of Plano, Texas.
During his June 7 visit, highlighted by an assembly with songs performed by the school’s 200 students, Mayor LaRosiliere discussed his memories of Corpus Christi. He is a member of the class of 1976.
“The biggest message I wanted them to get is that the experiences and memories they have before they graduate from eighth grade will help shape them to be who they are,” he told CNY afterward.
LaRosiliere, a Haitian-American who is Catholic, became the first black mayor of Plano, Texas, when he was elected May 11.
Born in Haiti in 1962, he was 3 years old when his family immigrated to New York and became a U.S. citizen at age 18. He went on to graduate from Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York.
He told the students at Corpus Christi to “embrace” all the school has to offer. During the assembly, he discussed the importance of public service and shared two personal stories from his time at Corpus Christi that impressed on him the need to help others.
In sixth grade, LaRosiliere said, he saw a boy being bullied at school. Instead of alerting a teacher or the principal to help his fellow student, he did nothing out of the fear of embarrassment.
He honestly admitted, “I remember feeling a little ashamed that I didn’t stand up for somebody. That taught me about fairness and protecting other people.”
He told the students, “If you don’t stand up for the person being treated poorly, you are complicit. That was a life-learning lesson for me. Now when someone needs help or protection I stand up for them.”
When he was working on a group science project in eighth grade with two of his friends, one of the boys took sheets of paper from another student. Mayor LaRosiliere told CNY that he knew it was wrong.
Later on, a religious sister discussed the importance of reconciliation in class. Mayor LaRosiliere said he listened to his conscience and refused to use the paper.
“That voice in your head, when you are alone that tells you what is right or wrong, that is God speaking to you,” he said.
The episode cost him two friends, but Mayor LaRosiliere said he counts it as “a positive experience.”
“When you listen to that voice you get empowered,” he said.
The day’s visit included a question and answer session, and a tour of the school. Mayor LaRosiliere met with the principal, Dorothy Valla, and the pastor of the parish, Father Raymond Rafferty.
With evident joy, Mayor LaRosiliere said he enjoyed his return to Corpus Christi School. “I was overwhelmed,” he said. “The kids and the love they gave me, their energy and the potential you sense in them, their energy and optimism, was invigorating.”
“I wish them all the best.”