Photo by Andrew Brown ’18 – Rudy Saldana ’16 rehearses during orchestra class.
Anthony Cardellini ’17
Transitioning to high school is never easy, but it was particularly challenging for Rudy Saldana ’16, the recipient of The Roundup’s 2016 “Man of the Year” award.
When Saldana was only 13, his mother passed away, leaving him, his siblings and his father to pick up the pieces.
“I was 13 and I didn’t know what the heck was going on,” Saldana said. “There were so many blanks that needed to be filled.”
He said that the death of his mom resulted in his having to grow up quickly.
“Everyone was too busy to take care of me,” he said. “I had to learn how to do all the stuff like cooking and cleaning and it forced me to grow up, to learn and grow and be the guy I am today.”
Saldana said going to Brophy soon after his mom’s passing helped him get through the time.
“We had this liturgy [at Brophy] right after I came back,” he said. “The most vivid thing I remember was walking in and everybody apologizing and I just broke down and everybody was there to comfort me.”
“I think that’s one of my favorite things about this place, that I’m a complete stranger to these people and they decide to help me. I could’ve been ignored but everyone decided to help me and treat me like a human being,” Saldana said.
He also said Brophy provided a home for him to do what he loved. He has participated in the music program for all four years and says it is what he has dedicated most of his time to.
Orchestra teacher Mr. Paul Olson said Saldana was a special student to teach in music.
“He definitely has a special commitment to playing in the orchestra,” Mr. Olson said.
“I see him up here frequently practicing, and quite honestly I wish we had more students like that.”
Mr. Olson said that Saldana’s hard work set him apart from other students.
“In all candor, he’s not the most talented musician that we have,” Mr. Olson said. “But he makes up for that in his dedication, his work ethic, his enthusiasm.”
Mr. Olson also said that in addition to Saldana’s work ethic when it comes to music, he also shows a great personality.
“He has this unique personality,” Mr. Olson said. “I can’t imagine Rudy ever having an enemy. There’s not really anything to not like about Rudy.”
Mr. Olson said one of the best features of that unique personality is Saldana’s wit.
“He’s got quite the sense of humor,” Mr. Olson said. “He has a sharp wit. You never really know out of the blue what witty comment he’s going to make.”
Mr. Olson said he admires Saldana “because I think he has set his goals high in life, but at the same time I believe he’s realistic.”
Jeremy Lacsa ’16, who said he has known Saldana for all four years, said Saldana is great, but not for traditional reasons.
“I believe Rudy is a great candidate for Man of the Year not because of the things that make a person the valedictorian, but because of how he embodies the spirit of Brophy,” Lacsa said in an email to The Roundup.
Mr. Olson said that he agrees Saldana is a unique candidate.
“Rudy is not your typical Man of the Year prospect because he hasn’t been the big man on campus, the star football player,” Mr. Olson said.
Lacsa said Saldana embodies Brophy through his compassion and kindness.
“He’s one of the friendliest guys I know, and everyone—students and teachers alike—recognize the wonderful atmosphere he creates,” Lacsa said.
Saldana said he is honored to be named the Man of the Year.
“It’s a huge honor,” he said. “It’s really amazing. When I saw myself on the initial ballot I thought I wasn’t going to get very far.”
He said that he wanted his legacy at Brophy to be “one of keeping it real and doing what you love, as well as being willing to try new things.”
Saldana also said that Brophy taught him “that there is a God at work in my life,” and that he wants to spread the message of “being the best version of you.”
Lacsa said that Saldana’s legacy will be twofold.
“Not only does he provide a model for students who wish to make the most of their Brophy experience, but also leaves behind an image of the wonderful Brophy community we seek to create and foster,” Lacsa said.
Mr. Olson said his advice to Saldana as he moves on in life would be “don’t change.”
Saldana said he wishes to express gratitude to the Brophy community for what it has done for him.
“I’d like to thank the Brophy community for everything it’s done the past four years,” he said. “I don’t know how I can thank this place.”