Welcome, Sam Alaback, Bishop Kelley graduate and recipient of the 2020 Bishop’s Medal. What’s the Bishop’s Medal?
The Bishop’s Medal is an award given to one graduating senior every year at Bishop Kelley. It’s voted by all the faculty and staff and by your peers, the senior class. To my knowledge, I think it recognizes a student who is living a faith-filled life at Bishop Kelley and who spreads that faith to others in a positive way and is active at school in all aspects.
I did a lot at Bishop Kelley and I hoped I impacted a lot of lives in a good way. I’m very honored to receive it.
Were you born and baptized in this parish?
I was born when Monsignor Dorney was pastor and when Father Jack was the associate.
Where did you go to school?
I went to grade school at Monte Cassino, then I transferred in fourth grade to Saint Pius X. About ninety percent of my graduating class was going to Bishop Kelley. While my sister attended Booker T. Washington, I felt that I was called to BK.
What will you take from your high school experience?
I’m definitely going to take my faith. I can’t replicate my faith at Bishop Kelley. I can’t.
I’m looking forward to going to Oklahoma State University. Father Kerry Wakulich is the chaplain there. You can tell he’s got it down; he’s a great chaplain.
I’m looking forward to strengthening my faith there. It’s common for students to lose their faith in college. If it’s God’s will, I hope to have more of a leadership role there. I want to spread the message to my peers.
When you were in high school, you were a part of the Saint Joseph of Arimathea Pallbearer Society
So that’s a really funny story. I had a friend who encouraged me to come to a “pallbearer society” meeting. As a freshman, I went into the chapel. I saw all these seniors, Mr. Gary Oberste, and Father Brian O’Brien. They all stared at me.
One of them came up to me and said, “Hey, pallbearers don’t accept freshmen.” It was kind of awkward. Mr. Oberste talked to me afterwards and thanked me for coming out.
After I was old enough, I became very invested in it. This past year, I headed it. The society doesn’t have an organized leadership, but I felt like I could be a leader in that scenario.
The passing of Mrs. McMasters and Mrs. Oberste were big moments for the school community. The pallbearer society was very present as those funerals.
The pallbearer society was important for me because it was a way to be present to people and to be there for them in their loss.
On the anniversary of September 11, you led school prayer in 2019. How were your chosen to lead prayer that day?
Coach Wads puts out a list of people who want to sign up to lead school prayer. I signed up for that day because I think it’s important to recognize the importance of September 11. I feel personally that many people my age have lost the sense of remembrance of 9/11 because we didn’t experience it. I was less than a year old when it happened.
I think it’s important to recognize it because of how much it impacted older generations. It’s a reminder that I wanted to put into the hearts of younger ones like myself.
Your senior year ended with a crisis that greatly impacted you. What was graduation like?
Graduation went through some trials and tribulations. At first, it was unknown.
I’m on the class board with principal Mr. Franz, Mrs. Gable, and Mr. Oberste. We were saying that we wanted an in-person graduation. We felt that very strongly. I believe that the Bishop Kelley faculty and staff agreed, but they wanted to make sure that safety was the number one priority.
When the final announcement came out in June, they said that it would be a drive-by. There was such a backlash—most of it positive—that pushed toward in-person graduation, that the school looked at it again. The administration polled the parents to make sure they are comfortable with in-person graduation before they agreed to it.
Graduation was really special because because it was not only an honor to receive the Bishop’s Medal, but because I got to see my fellow seniors one last time. Missing out on the fourth-quarter experience and seeing my classmates only on Zoom or Google Meets was anticlimactic to say the least.
I got to share my summer plans with friends, to say goodbye to friends and teachers. It was nice to have a closing moment. It was outside. It felt good. I was really happy we had it.
This summer, there is a new group of eighth graders who are getting ready to start high school at BK and elsewhere. What advice do you have for them?
I would say, “Go in there with an open mind.” Yes, there are already a lot of disappointing restrictions [due to COVID]. Let’s face the facts and accept that this is how it’s going to be.
Try everything that’s fruitful. I would try a sport. I wasn’t very good at cross country, but I did it for three years because it helped me build up personal responsibility, team building. It made me stronger physically; it’s important to keep up your Temple.
Go on retreats. It’s good to discover a new side of yourself. In high school, your faith will go to another level. At Bishop Kelley, it’s good to go on those retreats.
Try different clubs. Bishop Kelley has so many opportunities. I was in the gardening club. I did bowling for three years, then musical theater after that. Try everything. There’s all kinds of fun organizations to join: student council, the class board. Put yourself out there.