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Pacheco does the Greenleaf name proud at St. Bernard

There is an annual scholarship given to a St. Bernard student in the name of James Greenleaf Jr., who was one of the more than 3,000 people killed in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He was a foreign currency trader for Carr Futures and on the 92nd floor of the North Tower, where the first jet hit. He was 32.

"We want this fund to go on in perpetuity and live on so Jimmy's memory lives on," Frank Marcille, Greenleaf's cousin, said once. "The purpose is to get a student who was just like Jimmy — personable, athletic, a leader and intelligent — and give these students a chance to be something."

Greenleaf's family can rejoice today knowing that Frank Pacheco, a senior at the School On The Hill and scholarship recipient, hits every note.

Pacheco, who grew up in New London and later moved to Norwich, is a guard on the basketball team. He's been among the league's best players in 2021, making plans for college. He will leave St. Bernard as a beacon not merely for future scholarship winners, but all kids who choose to be a Saint.

"I came here because there's a coach here who played Division I," Pacheco was saying last week, alluding to St. Bernard coach Mark Jones, who played at Dayton. "I came here because I wanted to write my own story. I knew kids in New London who were going to New London and I wanted to do something different. I met Mark when I was in seventh grade. I started working out with him and thought that St. Bernard was the place for me."

Frank Pacheco knows there aren't many classmates of his who share his background. Or who look like he does. It can be an intimidating adventure, suddenly diving into the unfamiliar. Now he may be the greatest example of how we're all a lot more similar than we are different.

"When I first went there, I had one of my best friends from middle school with me so that helped," Pacheco said. "But I was definitely a little worried. The older guys there really helped me, like Max Lee. They made me feel like I was at home."

Then Pacheco paused and said, "The only differences for me, aside from wearing a tie to school, is the schoolwork and that the people I'm around every day are from a different environment. But I definitely don't regret it. St. Bernard helps me realize that no matter where I am, I have to act a certain way."

There are people out there who wrinkle their noses at the concept of the athletic scholarship, perhaps forgetting that athletics are the institution's primary window into the community. People step on a high school/college campus to watch sports more consistently than any other endeavor. And so communities often form their opinions based on the actions and successes of the players and coaches.

St. Bernard has a home run here.

"Honestly, I don't think St. Bernard is as different as people think," Pacheco said. "A lot of my friends from New London think that St. B's is a church school. I'm not gonna lie. When I got there, I thought it was, too. But it's really the same. Once you find a group of people you want to be around, it's like a second home."

What has he learned?

"More than anything, stay true to yourself, no matter who you're around and who you meet," Pacheco said. "I've been around a lot of great people. Mark Jones and a lot of great teachers. I've learned to be nice to everybody. You never know what people are dealing with in their lives."

The Saints are 5-4 entering the conference tournament Friday against New London. It's been an abbreviated season, but fun nonetheless. St. Bernard's schedule, formed by geographic proximity this season, allows the Saints to play more of the league's traditional powers. And they have as good a chance to win the tournament as anyone else.

"Since the end of my sophomore year, I've been begging Mark to figure out a way to move us up a division," Pacheco said. "This year, schedule is a lot more fun. More than anything, Mark taught me how to take advantage of the things I'm good at. When I was in New London, I was into the flashy stuff. Mark has shown me that being solid will take me a long way. Not just I basketball, but everything else."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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