Two Archbishop Stepinac High School seniors—James McCauley of New York City and Eduardo Ramirez of Peekskill—were recently honored with the Xavier E. Flores Memorial Scholarship Award, established in memory of a Stepinac alumnus who passed away at age 49 from Covid-19 in April 2020.
In a ceremony attended by Evelyn Flores—the widow of Xavier E. Flores— the students each received $2,500 for their extraordinary community service contributions.
Father Thomas Collins, president of Stepinac, said, “We congratulate these outstanding students for achieving this honor and wish them success as they prepare to continue on the path to post-secondary success, inspired by Xavier Flores’ legacy of giving back to the community in ways that make a tangible difference in the lives of people who most need it.”
Xavier Flores, who graduated from Stepinac in 1988, was involved at his alma mater, helping to raise funds for school programs and serving as co-president of the Crusader Men’s Club. He was also honored with the Block S Award bestowed on individuals whose contributions had a meaningful impact on Stepinac. His son, Xavier M. Flores, graduated from Stepinac in 2020.
Xavier’s family, friends and Stepinac agreed to honor his compassion, intelligence, sincerity, patience and service by establishing the educational scholarship. This is the second year the scholarship has been offered.
In scholarship essays McCauley and Ramirez submitted, they shared their experiences and personally reflected on the meaning of community service.
McCauley, who will attend Columbia University in the fall, was quarterback of Stepinac’s Crusaders varsity football team. Growing up in Harlem, he played with the Harlem Jets, a community nonprofit youth football program for boys. Traditionally, once a participant completes the Harlem Jets program and heads to high school, he returns to mentor and coach the next generation of players.
McCauley, who did exactly that, said the experience was “transformative.” Since he first practiced with the neighborhood boys, his focus has shifted “to helping solve the perpetual cycle of poverty that plagues our inner cities and rural areas.”
“This is a big dream that has emerged from such a small encounter. Doing anything I can to ignite more transformative change in my community and elsewhere to help those in need like the promising youth of the Harlem Jets has been a priority of mine that I hope to continuously embark on for the rest of my life.”
For Columbia University-bound Ramirez, who will serve as salutatorian at Stepinac’s commencement May 26, closing the education gap has been his mission since he took an AP Seminar course. “It opened my eyes to the prevalent issues in the world today including the opportunity gap where we could directly note a correlation between education level and job acquisition.”
In 2020, Ramirez and another student in Peekskill co-founded Roots to STEMs, a nonprofit community program that provides free instruction in science, technology, engineering and math to students in low-income communities, where disparities in qualitative learning are prevalent, as well as test prep and mentorship services.
Drawing on his own personal experience, Ramirez said, “I have noticed much greater success in my life when I am able to look up to someone.” At Columbia, he plans to expand Roots to STEMS, through recruitment of volunteers on campus. “Earning the Xavier E. Flores Scholarship will help me to improve the education of others,” he said.