By: Jacqlyn Culwell
Featured in Lynn Classical High School Alumni Newsletter
David Morales, a mastermind of success and confidence, has dedicated his life to change. He is a graduate of Bowdoin College and serves on the Bowdoin College Board of Trustees, the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy Board of Directors at Harvard University, as well as the Lynn Classical High School Board of Directors. Like others before and after him, Classical served as a place of growth.
Long before he became tasked with resolving some of the challenges of the health care world, he was a hero on the field, serving as a middle linebacker at Lynn Classical High School and again at Bowdoin College in Maine. Throughout the course of his life in sports and in service, Morales has learned there that conviction comes from actions, that trust is earned, and that you can change your circumstances if you believe in yourself.
“My life was significantly shaped by many people at Classical. Classical High School had all of the ingredients to help people like David Morales (low income, Puerto Rican, eager to grow) to be strong, and self-reliant. If I could name one single Classical inspiration it would be David Dempsey,”
“My football coach David Dempsey was instrumental in my success at Classical. He helped me focus on my grit, toughness, and mental ability. There were people like Gene Constantino who asked me to come work at Camp Pinecrest a Summer Camp, with kids like me. Mrs. Pappagianopoulos was like my guidance counselor. She would check in on me often. There are many people; Coach Alicudo who has since passed—instrumental in my personal development. They were all part of this incredible journey that God has put me on.”
Morales lives a life of faith. He is not only inspired by that faith but influenced by it as well. It is evident in conversations, his daily life, and the spirit with which he walks this Earth. Everyone has a motivation. Part of the motivation of David Morales is his devotion to that faith.
“First, Jesus Christ is my lord and savior. I focus on living out God’s word every day. The second… my parents. They made so many sacrifices for me growing up. Despite our income status, we never lacked anything growing up. The third is my wife – Samanda Morales, she is a pillar of strength and sage wisdom.”
Grit comes in many forms. It is perseverance of effort combined with the passion for accomplishing goals and dreams. Morales has that grit, but it was at Classical High School where he first experienced what grit was.
“I got shaped into what Coach Dempsey used to call the “grit machine”. There was a moment during my Junior year—I experienced a death of three of my friends— they died in a car accident. I knew I wanted to do great things. I wanted to survive. It was powerful for me… that knock on my window from a friend at 6am telling me what had happened. This was a powerful moment for me because the entire week, I thought about my life,”
“Where was I going? I wanted to live and do great things. I was like, ‘Okay, I cannot end up dead. I want to grow, live and thrive’. Coach Dempsey became very instrumental in my life at that point. That moment … the death of those 3 high school classmates… gave me a pivot point to ask myself where I was going and what I was going to do with the opportunities I had before me. I wanted to make a difference in my life, I wanted to help my family, my community, and myself to do great things. I could either let that experience consume me, or find a way to grow, excel and thrive.
I asked Morales about his experienced with sports and how Classical’s football team impacted his life. When we
think of sports, there is always something physical about them—you have to be physically fit to play sports. For Morales, the fitness came from within the mind as well.
“Football, like most sports, teaches you critical things. Sports teaches you discipline. In life you need teamwork, you need teams to accomplish objectives. Sports also teaches you grit and determination. We are built to be resilient people and sports teaches you that. There is gratitude; whether or not you lose, the goal is to be grateful that you had the opportunity to compete,”
“Competition is the last thing. We live in a free market economy, a capitalist economy where the competition of ideas and hard work succeed. One has to leverage the opportunities presented to them to succeed. As long as we have an equal opportunity to compete, we should strive to do better. We’re not all guaranteed equality of outcome, but most of us are offered and equal opportunity to compete. We live in the greatest country on the face of the planet – the United States of America- what we do with the opportunities this wonderful country offers us is up to us. But it takes discipline, work, resilience, faith, and determination.”
Like my conversation with Brendan Crighton, I thought it was crucial that I ask David a question where he could reflect on his accomplishments and the everlasting memories of Classical and not just remember his time there. In whatever we choose to do in life, we all leave something behind.
“I have worked really hard in my career to overcome lot of obstacles. My only legacy are my two sons—that’s frankly why I left many things behind—my sons are my legacy. I would say to the students at Classical whether they are black, brown, white, whatever they are—do not believe what the world tells you, you are not a victim and you are not oppressed. The only obstacle is your mind and what you choose to do with the opportunities before you,”
“You have that authority and the power to overcome all things. If you have the will, desire, and determination to do better for yourself, you have that power to do great things. No one owes you anything. But you owe it to yourself to do better, to be kind, joyful. If there’s any legacy message today… it’s that YOU -the students- have an opportunity to do incredible things in life. Learn something new each day, work hard, aspire to be a CEO, an investor, a scientist, an astronaut, an engineer, a doctor and be kind, loving, humble to others in the process.
This is important question that I didn’t feel like I could chunk into the words of a reporter summarizing her conversation. So, I hope the inclusion of it here, illuminates an awareness in the capabilities of determination which we all have.
What is it that you hope to inspire for Classical Students? Especially those from Spanish speaking countries who may live-in low-income situations. Your history as a child from a poor region in Puerto Rico is inspiring. How might you inspire other youth like you to take their upbringing and use it as power.
My first message to any student—do not believe what the world tells you. You don’t have an unfair shot, especially if you are a newcomer. You are simply starting off at a different point in life. The question is, what you are going to do to better your situation and your family’s life? You can either choose to think you’re a victim, or you can choose to leverage every opportunity before you and outwork and outhustle your competitors at everything you do. You live in the greatest country in the world. Our nation’s Constitution guarantees us the freedom to think, speak, live, and harness resources that most countries do not. But you must have a deep desire to do better for yourself and you must compete to thrive. What will you do? Here is some perspective: if my family arrived here in 1986 and your family has been here for three generations…am I supposed to have the same amount of money, or resources than your family? Of course not. But do I have the same opportunity to set up my family to do better than we were yesterday? Yes! What are you going to do with the opportunities before you? The second message is to learn skills that will empower you to earn a good living. What skill sets do I need to develop to have the “right” career or the “right” outcome that I desire? Decide what skillsets you need to succeed (whatever success means to you): critical thinking, math, science, engineering, economics, etc. Build the skillsets to get to the outcomes you seek. Finally, be rooted in faith and be humble. Live life every day like Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
To close on my conversation with David, I asked him a hard question. If he could describe what Classical means to him in one word, what would that word be? I wasn’t all too surprised with his answer.
“One word. Success. Lynn Classical High School and those who work there successfully prepared me for a competitive and rewarding life.