#becauseofCJ: Reflection from C.J. '14

During this season of thanks, alumni like C.J. Riazzi '14 are sharing how they are succeeding today #becauseofCJ:

Dear CJ Community,

Words cannot express the gratitude I have for the humility, faith, and culture that you all have made me blessed to be a part of. Whether you know me or not, I feel that it is only appropriate to mention that my journey to a green cap and gown was different than most of my fellow alumni. Nevertheless, I feel that different stories are what make our community great, so here is mine.

Currently, I am a Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force and I have the pleasure of being stationed in Los Angeles, California. Since graduating, I have been blessed beyond measure in both relationships and opportunities. I attended one of the top business management schools in the country, completed basic military and survival training, and played four years of DI football at the Air Force Academy. While stationed in Los Angeles, I have been working to ensure the successful launch of multiple government rockets that often carry billion-dollar satellites. I have been all over the country to work with various satellite programs and rocket systems. Without going into the weeds too much, I can easily say that my college and work experience could not have been possible without the people at Chaminade Julienne. 

I came to CJ in 2012 as a six-foot-two, skinny basketball player meeting everyone else at freshman orientation for the first time including my future teammates. There was only one difference with me that day — I was not a freshman, rather, a junior transfer walking the halls at orientation. I had previously attended another Catholic school and to say that this transition was difficult would be an understatement. 

As a 16-year-old kid, it is tough to understand why you lost most of your friends and the support of many adults that you grew up knowing, just because you made a decision to change high schools. You, the CJ community, helped me see beyond these things. Over the next two years, and to this day, the compassion and affability that I received from you all is incredible. Looking back now, I can say without a doubt that the decision I made as a 16-year-old kid was one of the best decisions I have made to date.

Sports were a huge part of my life at CJ. Playing basketball for Coach Staley is something I will never forget. Every time I stepped into the gym it was meaningful. Whether heartbreak or triumph, dunking against Dunbar, Lima, and Alter, or losing against Fenwick and Thurgood, the ride that was CJ basketball will forever hold a place in my memory. The coaches and my fellow teammates made me a better player and more importantly, a better person. At CJ there were no politics or team drama. Everyone was constantly pushed to be the best person they could be and that was certainly something special. That is a large part of why I remain close with everyone that played a part in getting that team and myself where we ended up. The same could be said for my experience with the football team.

Football wasn’t even on my radar when I first stepped foot into CJ. I played when I was younger but stopped in 8th grade to put all of my focus on basketball. It wasn’t until my senior year that I walked into Coach Colvin’s classroom to tell him that I wanted to play. The rest was history. A couple weeks into the season, we were off to a very successful start. Not long after that, Coach Colvin was stopping by my classes or at lunch to introduce me to college coaches. Before long, I had taken a visit and committed to the United States Air Force Academy.
My career and ultimately my life had come full circle in a matter of two years. All of this certainly gave me the gift of humility. The ups and downs from start to finish taught me so much about myself as well as the wonderful community that I had around me. I truly owe it to Coach Colvin, Coach Staley, and every person or program at Chaminade Julienne — something I never would have realized without the help, love, and support of you all, the CJ community.

With all this said, I firmly believe that God played the main role in every single one of my endeavors. Faith is so strong at CJ. After being at the school for a short time, I was even sharing my life stories with sophomores at their retreat. I made lifelong friends at Kairos, sharing my roller coaster high school story with my peers. Most of the time I am able to visit home, I attend Wednesday morning Mass with a group of CJ alumni, parents, staff, and parishioners. It is pretty amazing to see the eclectic group of people that gather for 7:30 a.m. Mass at Emmanuel Church and it has become a highlight of mine every time that I am home. It further speaks to the sense of community and strong rooted faith present down on Ludlow Street.

Every one of these memories truly are special. They are always fun to reminisce on but at this stage in my life, they are only memories after all. The most meaningful thing that my time at CJ provided me were relationships. Visiting home and getting a drink with the Staley’s or getting wings with Coach Colvin and some old teammates serve as a testament to the strong relationships and the lasting impact that the CJ community has in my life. Just as football and the Air Force weren’t in my “plans”, in all honesty neither was CJ. As it turns out, all three of those things will go down as the best decisions of my life.

I owe everything to you all. Everything that I continually mention, humility, faith, and culture, have become staples in my life and I am positive that they are staples in yours as well. So I write this reflection as more of a thanksgiving to the CJ community. You will always hold a special place in my heart. For welcoming me and sending me off the right way. I will be sure to return often and maintain in close contact.

Thank you for all that you have done for me, making me the person I am today. I know that you will continue to inspire those behind me to do the same; cherishing humility, faith, and culture,

C.J. Riazzi, Class of 2014

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Posted November 27, 2019