SMPA Graduate William Cotto looks back on his 12-year journey from Saint Martin de Porres Academy to Southern New Hampshire University, Class of 2020, BA Video Game Design.
I graduated college, but it wasn’t a simple task. It was pretty difficult. People need to know that it’s not just talent that is going to get you somewhere in your life; you have to work hard. What I do know is that I have worked so hard to get where I am. The harder you work, the more it’s going to seem like you have talent. I am living proof of it. I am constantly working on everything about myself.
I went to Saint Martin’s in 6th grade. It was a really hard time in my life. My family was moving from apartment to apartment with no particular place to call home. I had to live with my dad for a year and ended up in Ansonia. If you don’t know, Ansonia is nowhere near New Haven. I had to be at Saint Martin’s for 7:00 am which meant I walked out the door at 5:45 am dressed and ready to take the city bus to downtown New Haven. Then I had to transfer to a 2nd bus to get to Saint Martin’s. At 5:15 pm after school was over, I would get back on the bus and do it all again. It was a draining process for an 11-year-old, but I did it every day for a year with my little brother who was 9 until we moved back to my mom’s place in New Haven. Saint Martin’s was a great place to be…a great outlet. I didn’t mind that there was a 10-hour school day, I didn’t even want to go home sometimes. Saint Martin’s was safe.
Saint Martin’s is a place that helped me propel myself even further and continue my learning. It was more than just a school; it was an outlet where I could express who I was and get all that negative stuff out. Dr. O’Leary is just a great person. She was always real hard on me, but it was for a good reason. She wanted me to be able to express myself but in a way that it was not affecting me in a negative way inside or outside of school. She made sure I stayed on a nice course. Ms. Rivera did so many things that she didn’t have to do. Regardless if she was busy or not, she would make sure I got home. She would go out of her way to drop me, my brother and my sister off at home. Neither of them had to do those things. All they had to do was teach us and give us an education, but they did more. They went above and beyond what any teacher or school does. The beautiful thing about it is, they didn’t have to. You know they care. It is something that some of us took for granted at the time but when you get older – you look back and you know they were really looking out for us. It’s a really good feeling to know we went to Saint Martin’s and not somewhere else. Anywhere else we would be set up for a completely different narrative.
My favorite memory of Saint Martin’s is not when I was in middle school there, but when I was in high school. We could go back to Saint Martin’s every day and use them as a resource even though we were not middle school students anymore. After classes were over, I hopped on the city bus because I knew if I went home I wasn’t going to get my work done. Man, going to SMPA after school was the best! I went there every single day. I could get my work done, connect with teachers, learn about other stuff, play basketball, and help out around the school. Moving stuff up and down the stairs, just always there doing stuff to help. I loved helping the teachers!
Saint Martin’s is a Catholic School and Notre Dame is a Catholic school. The class I probably straight up enjoyed the most was religion class. I did well and enjoyed learning about anything that pertained to religion. Anytime I went to one of those classes it was automatically a better day. Religion is something that I hold very close to me in terms of who I am as a person. My life might have been difficult, but I also am getting a lot of blessings from God. People are always telling me, “How are you so positive sometimes?” I talk to God when I am in the shower, when I am alone in the car, when I am walking. I know someone is listening because everything I am talking about is happening and being answered. Things land in front of me. I know there is a God up there who is watching over me and wants me to do well. I feel like God is really trying to put me in the best possible situation, as long as I take advantage of the blessings that have been given to me.
In high school, Notre Dame offered one class at the end of my senior year that got me excited about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was a video game programming class. Because of the incredible education
I received, I had a bunch of colleges to pick from. One of the big factors was money and how it was going to affect my future when I finished school. I was trying to think long term about college debt. When I saw Southern New Hampshire University, I knew this was the spot. I knew it was going to be a great experience for my whole four years, and it was. In college, I took multiple courses so I would be able to work in different areas in this field – programming, animation, textures, voice acting and game design. I can do all those things now.
Saint Martin’s is probably my best blessing though. If there were no Saint Martin’s, there would have been no Notre Dame for me. If no Notre Dame, no Southern New Hampshire University. It would have been a completely different narrative. If I could talk to the donors, I would tell them, look at kids like me. A bunch of kids who are doing well and taking advantage of the opportunities you’ve given us. You are a blessing in disguise! There wouldn’t even be a Saint Martin’s if donors didn’t exist.
If I could talk to the donors, I would tell them, look at kids like me. A bunch of kids who are doing well and taking advantage of the opportunities you’ve given us. You are a blessing in disguise!
A kid like me who had all these problems and finished college and is looking for a place to work in the field…that is amazing. You changed my life. You changed multiple kids’ lives. I am super grateful! You want us to succeed and when you see us do that, you want to see more kids succeed. You guys are the real MVPS…the real heroes, the “unsung heroes” as some people say. Thank you! I appreciate you.
Saint Martin de Porres Academy
Notre Dame High School
Southern New Hampshire University, Class of 2020