Matthew Whittle of North Little Rock remembers his first few weeks as a Subiaco Academy eighth-grader as isolating but also one of the defining periods of his young life.
“When I first started, I was missing my family a lot,” he said. “For the first month or so, I was pretty withdrawn, just focusing on getting good grades. But as I started warming up to the place and a lot of stuff became routine, I could shift my focus and start putting myself out there and make friends.”
Once Whittle started to come out of his shell, he became a familiar face in a number of the school’s activities.
“Within my first year, I tried everything out,” he said. “Making friends happened first and then the friends I made drew me to those activities.”
The home Whittle found at the school brought some stability into his life as well. Whittle’s mother, Shelly, died in 2011 and prior to coming to Subiaco, his family was living in California where he struggled to fit in at school, inspiring his stepmother to apply to the Benedictine academy.
“The schools in California are really packed and crowded,” he said. “I was still getting better grades, but I just wasn’t enjoying the atmosphere. I didn’t really get close to anybody in school and I pretty much just looked forward to coming home every day. Moving to Subiaco was a big break from that.”
During five years at the school, Whittle participated in cross country and soccer, attaining the rank of team captain his senior year. He demonstrated similar accomplishment in music, growing into a lead trumpet soloist with the school’s Trojan Jazz Band.
He was also very visible at athletic events, whipping up the student body in support of the team.
“There’s not a specific position for that, but for how much I did it, I was the main person leading cheers for a lot of the sporting events,” he said. “The seniors take on that role, and I just started at the beginning of the year leading the cheers and everybody got used to me doing it. So, I kept doing it.”
Whittle, who is Baptist, said he also gained a deeper appreciation for spiritual matters during his time at Subiaco.
“There’s a lot of love and respect within that community and no matter whether you are a Catholic or not, there was a lot of guidance and moral values that they instilled through going to church and the religion classes,” he said. “So, I felt like I gained a lot more respect for the Catholic faith, the monks and also built confidence in myself to go out in the future and reach for what I want to do in life.”
The first steps on Whittle’s post-high school journey will take him to Fayetteville where he’s enrolled in the University of Arkansas Honors College.
He has plans to major in biology or life science with the ultimate goal of medical school and becoming a forensic pathologist.
Please read our Comments Policy before posting.Article comments powered by Disqus