Young alumni are sharing how they are succeeding after high school in our #becauseofCJ series. Through your gift to the CJ Annual Fund, you make this happen for all students. As you Joseph shares his thoughts on building relationships below, please consider joining others today in supporting the mission of CJ — thank you!
Dear CJ Community,
The other day I was talking to my best friend, who I met at CJ when we were freshman. Fast forward four years and we are not only best friends but are doubles partners on the tennis team. We were at his fiancée’s house (being socially safe). Not only had they first met at CJ, but her parents were there, who also met at CJ — and a family friend there as well who, as you may now guess, also went to CJ. That is when I realized that CJ is truly a one of a kind generational place.
For me, going to CJ was never going to be a question. Both my sister and brother had graduated from there and I had known Mr. Jim Brooks since 5th grade and was determined to play tennis for him one day. The funny thing is that story of wanting to play for Mr. Brooks is such a universal one at CJ, which is truly remarkable, and that most kids had no choice but to go to CJ — in a good way — because it was generational. For most of my friends, most of their siblings had gone to the school and, in some cases, had parents who had gone there and even taught at CJ.
There is something beautiful about the fact that a lot of us have so much shared history that necessarily doesn’t involve us directly in one place. One of my favorite parts about CJ was walking through the first-floor halls and seeing all the pictures of the graduating classes and knowing the history and generations that have passed through there and the generations that will continue to walk those halls. It’s a community like non-other.
CJ was truly home to me for four years and in all honesty will always be home to me. It taught and gave me so much that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to repay it but I guess I just have to try and pay it forward to the next generations who will have the same privilege as I did. It prepared me academically to be able to go on to college at Marquette University and eventually graduate University of Dayton with a bachelor’s degree in International Business and International Studies with a focus on economics and finance.
Without the guidance I got at CJ I am not sure that I would have been as successful, now I work as a market research analyst out of a firm based in Milwaukee, WI helping to serve all of our brokers and partners to give top notch content and market expertise in the United Kingdom and Canadian insurance markets. That love of research came from my academic studies at CJ.
Perhaps the most important thing CJ taught me or gave me was the importance of a relationship. While that might sound so simple, it really is not that straightforward. CJ gave me some of best friendships this world has to offer and they will be with me all my life but those are not the relationships I am referring to. As you go through life, hopefully you will be able to create friendships with your peers through all levels of school, work or random life events.
The relationships I am talking about are the ones that aren’t necessary or the ones that are randomly built. For me that was spending my study hall periods in Mr. Colvin’s class just to talking to him even though he never taught me a single class. I would also conspire with Ms. Muhl to scare Ms. Eichenhauer every day and visit with the other counselors in the guidance office. Ms. Wheeler was my actual counselor, and I’ll never forget how she would always check in on me senior year to make sure I would get into Marquette. Even now, anytime I go back to CJ to visit, II immediately check in on Ms. Szabo, who was never directly tied to my academics in high school, but was great support. In the totality of my experience there, she was one of the many highlights. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I miss walking those halls, seeing Cali every day and getting to talk to him and pass the time with him. He was one of the most fascinating people at that school and not just a bus driver.
In this life you will meet so many people and come across so many relationships. My advice, which was formed by my formative years at CJ, is try to engage them all. Every single one of them, whether you are at college and there is a lunch person who has the same Thursday shift, or receptionist at the office. Ask them how are they doing and show an interest in their lives. You might not know it then but that relationship might become of your most important relationships you develop at that place.
I still remember Ms. April who was a lunch lady at Marquette. Saying goodbye to her was one of the hardest things I had to do when I left Marquette and transferred to the University of Dayton. The same applies for the aforementioned guidance counselor office at CJ and many more. Sometimes it is more than just the teachers and friends that make a place special and for CJ, the ancillary staff are the reason why those were some of the best four years of my life and a reason I am the person I am today. They taught me how to make relationships that could last a lifetime with people whom you never thought you would. Those relationships can become the relationships that matter most.
I will forever be eternally grateful for CJ, my home. You took a child and gave him the tools and people to succeed in this life. I could not be where I am today without CJ and the great people that go to work there each and every day. You all make a difference in a child’s heart whether you know it or not. You definitely made a mark on this child.
Joseph Hangana, class of 2011
Published August 4, 2020