by John Udabe
On Tuesday, March 16th, St John Bosco High School senior Pedro Ochoa received the Christian Service Award, which was presented by Archbishop Jose Gomez of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. This award was just one indication of the impact that Pedro has had during his time at Bosco.
The Christian Service Award is awarded annually to high school seniors from all around the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Along with the precondition of attending a Catholic school in the LA Archdiocese, nominees must also show constant and exemplary service within and beyond their school communities.
St. John Bosco’s Christian Service Coordinator, John Weinandy, elaborated on the award.
“[The award] is the diocese recognizing the importance of service and really trying to find a leader in the school who is both passionate about it, excited about it and wants to get his classmates involved as well,” said Mr. Weinandy.
When discussing the nomination process, he added, “It was pretty obviously Pedro because he cares deeply about other people and wants to share that caring with others.”
Pedro recalled the moment he found out he was going to be a recipient of the award.
“When I heard the news, I was amazed. It was a surreal moment, something hard to process. And it was a great feeling being able to have mass in the Cathedral,” said Pedro.
From the very beginning of his high school career, Pedro quickly became engaged with many different groups around Bosco. Since then, he has taken leadership roles in Youth Ministry, Campus Ministry, Christian Service and Associated Student Body. In addition to this, he has also been involved with Student Ambassadors and has competed in Shot Put and Discus on the Track and Field team.
Pedro never intended to become so involved at Bosco. Looking back at his start at Bosco, he said, “I came into Bosco saying I was not going to be involved in anything, but that didn’t last because I think I am called by God to serve others.”
Teachers and administrators alike remember Pedro’s engagement as an underclassmen. Mr Weinandy can remember Pedro’s start with Christian service his sophomore year.
“It was just great seeing a sophomore stepping up into a leadership role and getting involved with something he was so passionate about while working with the seniors to plan events around campus and get the student body involved,” said Mr. Weinandy.
During the past year in dealing with the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, Pedro especially has stepped up to help his community.
“We had to think of new innovative ways to make sure St. John Bosco High School still had the faith aspect,” Pedro said, and his focus remained on finding ways to create a stronger Bosco community.
In doing so, Pedro has helped coordinate multiple virtual events, including masses and prayer services, as well as a video series that teaches the Bosco students about Salesian landmarks around Bosco.
“Ministry Mondays is a series of small episodes where we go around and talk about Salesian landmarks around campus. Our main goal is to spread awareness of our Salesian campus to the students,” said Pedro.
Pedro’s service is not only on the Bosco campus, but also reaches out into the larger community. Pedro organized a toy drive for his own city through Bosco.
“I have been attending the South Gate Toy drive for 8 years, and every year it’s special,” Pedro remarks, “We get to put smiles on children’s faces and I also got the honor to be able to score a partnership with the South Gate Water Department to give toys to more families in need last year.”
Pedro does not only do such a wide array of service, but he does it graciously and joyfully. To put it simply, Pedro says, “I do what I do because I love doing it,” and this outlook of Pedro’s is apparent to everyone who knows him.
Mr. Torre, a former teacher of Pedro’s and current Kairos coordinator, looked fondly on Pedro’s attitude inside and outside of the classroom.
“He’s a glass-half-full kind of guy,” Mr. Torre remarks, and in regards to why Pedro is so optimistic and positive, he said, “I think Pedro loves to come to Bosco, and I think Pedro really does what he does out of joy.”
When describing Pedro’s involvement with Kairos, Mr. Torre adds how Pedro “demonstrates his leadership with a laser beam kind of focus,” and continued, “If I had to use three words to describe him, it would be joyful, engaging, and as I’ve gotten to know him better, faithful.”
In the past four years, Pedro has worked closely with Mr. Jaramillo as a part of ASB and Youth Ministry. Mr. Jaramillo reflected on Pedro’s early involvement at Bosco.
“I’ve known Pedro since he started his freshman year. There was always something that Pedro wanted to be a part of, but not for him. I think he embodied what servant leadership is, by putting others before himself,” said Mr. Jaramillo.
This year Pedro is not only a member of ASB Executive Board, but also is the current Youth Ministry delegate. This position is unique to Salesian schools and Mr. Jaramillo elaborated on the importance of that role.
“It is one of the highest leadership opportunities in the Salesian world,” and when speaking on Pedro’s impact in that position, Mr Jaramillo said, “I always admire the fact that he always wanted to do more when he became delegate this year, from day one.”
Kyle Perera, from Bosco’s class of 2020, was last year’s Youth Ministry Delegate and Christian Service Award recipient. He reflected on last year’s youth ministry team’s ability to adapt to the unpredictable circumstances.
“The entire team did an amazing job. Pedro did an excellent job leading the Christian Service team. His leadership fit the role he played in the Youth Ministry Team,” said Kyle.
Kyle was happy to hear of Pedro’s accomplishment.
“I’m happy for Pedro,” Kyle remarks, “From what I saw while working with him last year, he was well qualified to earn such a prestigious award. He had that passion to serve others out of the goodness of his heart…that’s why he had such great work ethic.”
If there are any shared sentiments by those who know Pedro, it is that he is selfless and passionate about helping others. In the words of Mr. Jaramillo, Pedro “always had the mentality of ‘this is what my peers would want’, or ‘what are my classmates asking?’ and that’s where Pedro fulfills the mission of the school, because he puts all of us before himself.”
Pedro Ochoa is one of the most active members of the Bosco community, whose countless hours of community involvement have helped to make Bosco even better. His tireless work in the last year alone was crucial to helping Bosco adapt to the new online environment. As the Youth Ministry Delegate, he has set a very high bar by going above and beyond for the school, and his absence from Bosco after he graduates will definitely be especially missed.
As of now, Pedro is hoping to attend one of his dream colleges and plans on continuing his service after he graduates from St. John Bosco.
“I really want to continue to help people in need, I want to help the less fortunate, and I want to try to inspire others to know that they can do the same,” said Pedro.