Weymouth, Mass.-- Even when looking back on life’s most trying moments, Catholic Memorial School senior Matthew Freitas chooses to see the positive.
So, when St. Francis Xavier School invited him to speak at the school’s leadership speaker series last Friday, he decided to remember an unsong hero from a near-fatal car crash that he survived at the age of 11-years-old. From that wintry day six-years-ago, Matthew recalled an EMT worker who kept him calm just hours before doctors needed to amputate his leg.
Addressing a crowd of over eighty middle school students, Matthew called the EMT a true model of leadership. He encouraged each student to remember that, just like the EMT worker, a true leader goes to whatever length needed to get the job done. Even if it means cracking a joke or talking about the latest sports news to calm down an 11-year-old boy on the cusp of passing out from the pain in his leg.
“I think it’s important to help future generations of students to be leaders,” said Matthew, who captains both the wrestling and lacrosse teams at CM.
“If I can share my experience with them, then they might not need to go through the same things that I went through to get there."
Over the past three years, St. Francis Xavier invites a different person to speak to its students about what leadership means. Ms. Elizabeth Duncan, a parent of a child at St. Francis Xavier, coordinates a different speaker every month. She heard about Matthew’s story from several St. Francis Xavier faculty members who knew Matthew from the club lacrosse circuit in Massachusetts.
A Weymouth resident, Matthew grew up with several friends who attended the middle school at St. Francis Xavier. So, when Ms. Duncan invited Matthew to speak at the school, he accepted the invitation and never thought twice about it.
After a brief introduction from school principal Robert Murphy, Matthew began his talk with the story of the EMT worker. He mentioned how he saw the same leadership traits that existed in the EMT worker in the CM community. From his time on the varsity lacrosse team and the school’s peer ministry program, Matthew surrounded himself with incredible mentors. Those mentors taught him that great leaders offer experience, the humility to learn from others, and the willingness to step out of one’s comfort zone.
He referred to CM President Dr. Peter Folan as the embodiment of such leadership. Matthew said that Dr. Folan would sit down with every student in the school and map out his map to success if he could.
\He saved time for students to ask questions at the end of his speech. Questions on how to find motivation and how to follow an interest. Every hand raised received its own thoughtful response. Afterwards, the principal showed his appreciation for Matthew and his time when he gifted Matthew a St. Francis Xavier notebook in front of the middle school audience.
“The kids from SFX were all amazing,” said Matthew, touched by the gesture.
“They welcomed me into their school and all seemed extremely interested in hearing what I had to say, which means a lot. Hopefully they took something away from what I said."