Each year, St. Rita of Cascia High School honors the donors who support the school with generous gifts that ensure scholarships and financial aid, as well as the facilities that serve the community. At their annual reception on October 10, 2013, Ray Keane'14 spoke to the group about the opportunities he has had at St. Rita because of their generosity.
Ray is the son of Raymond'79 and Donna Keane of Orland Park. A member of the wrestling and baseball teams, as well as a Kairos leader, Ray embodies what it means to be a true Ritaman. His remarks, in full, are below.
Good evening Mr. Mrozek, Mr. O’Neill, Fr. Tom, the Augustinian Community of St. Rita, benefactors, board members, and friends of St. Rita. My name is Ray Keane, class of 2014. On behalf of the entire St. Rita community, I welcome you to this President’s Dinner. All of you are here tonight because of your generous donations made to the school. We would like to honor you and show our appreciation for these wonderful gifts. I personally want to thank you for all these donations. It has a great impact on my life. Let me tell you my story, but before I do, I want to thank my mother Donna Keane, and sister Renee Keane for being in attendance. I’d like to also thank my father Raymond Keane, who could not attend tonight, but is with us in spirit.
In 2010, my father, Raymond Keane, who is a 1979 Rita alumni, was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also know as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or ALS. However, he had been experiencing symptoms going back to 2007. It started with the loss of strength in his right arm and quickly spread to his entire body. Over the past five years, his salary as a respected attorney has been cut in half, due to his inability to attend court. Today, he is 100% incapable to move independently and relies on the help of my family and me to assist his needs. Now why is this relevant to this dinner? In no way am I looking for a sob story. These are simply the harsh facts of my current situation. The reason I bring this up is to demonstrate how much of a family the St. Rita community has been to my family and me in our time of need. With the donations given by generous people like all of you, St Rita was able to assist my parents financially to help pay for my tuition. If this hadn’t occurred, I would have to transfer to another school. When I arrived at St. Rita I had not known if I made the right choice. I was the only kid from my grade school of 850 in Orland Park to attend Rita. In fact, I was expecting to attend Carl Sandburg high school my entire life. One day, while driving home from my grand parent’s house in the city with my dad and brother, I noticed we were near where I thought St. Rita was located. I had seen an ad in the paper for their open house, and realized it was occurring at that moment. I decided to ask my dad to stop there, just to check it out. I mean, my father went there, so I figured I could just see what the school looked like. As we entered, I noticed a sense of school spirit that I had not experienced before. Everything was covered in Rita logos, and Mustangs pictures. It was a cool site to see. After walking into the gym, I made my way to the wrestling table, as I aspired to wrestle in high school. This was when I met my coach Dan Manzella. To be honest, he is the one who got me to want to attend St. Rita, right then and there. He was a down to earth guy, who was passionate about wrestling, but even more so about the school. He made us feel important, taking us for a tour of the wrestling room and school. He was very genuine in what he said. That’s something I never experienced from a high school coach. I knew St. Rita was different, and now I was strongly considering attending. When I got home, I was excited to tell my mom the news. When I pulled out the pamphlets and said I’m considering St. Rita, she said very quickly, “No, I won’t send you to a place like that.” You see, my mother had preconceived ideas that Rita might be a misogynistic environment. She couldn’t understand how I’d be able to work in the business world with females, if I attended an all-male school. Boy did her opinion change fast. Just like me, she was nearly sold on Rita after seeing the school and realizing how caring everyone is. She said she felt a vibe here that she couldn’t describe. I think she also liked the fact I would have no excuse not to attend church. When we got home, she told me I could go where ever I wanted. In my mind I knew, Rita was the choice. So on the first day of school, I was at 77th and Western. My career at St. Rita had begun. The first day of school was very intimidating. I knew no. Yet, I was accepted for who I was as a person. I never felt alone or by myself. Even though I didn’t technically know anybody, everyone was still friendly enough to treat me with respect. To be honest, friends were made easily, because of the friendly environment that is present here. As a matter of fact, I met one of my best friends while at St. Rita, Ryan Barr. Now who would have thought one kid from Orland Park and another from Blue Island would become best friends? I honestly had never heard of Blue Island, and had no idea where it was located. Even with our differences, Ryan and I clicked the instant we started talking in our Honors Biology class. To this day we talk everyday. The reason our friendship is different is that we can talk about anything. I owe a lot to Ryan for putting up with some of my craziness. He is always there for me if I need to talk about the struggles at home, or just need to take my mind off things. Our friendship is something I will always treasure, and it would not have happened if not for St. Rita.
A big change for me that I noticed was how caring and relatable the teachers and staff were. In junior high, the feeling was that teachers wanted to just teach and leave. At Rita, teachers I’ve had like Mrs. Dion and Mr. Partacz genuinely cared for my wellbeing, both in school and out. Even the little things of asking me “how are you doing Ray”, or “how’s your dad feeling”, is something I can’t really describe. The love and concern they and everyone has shown me is remarkable. That’s something I would have never expected. The entire staff here truly loves their jobs, but more importantly, truly cares for the students. You can’t get that just anywhere. Rita really is a tight knit family. I also appreciate all the help from teachers who have assisted me with my academics. I have stayed on top of my grades, receiving gold and silver honors every semester and currently ranked in the top 15 percent in my class. I owe this not only to my personal hard work, but the immense help from the St. Rita staff. Approaching teachers to ask questions is not an intimidating thing at all. They are all down to earth and would be happy to help. I can’t say enough about the staff and academics here at St. Rita.
Another aspect of St. Rita that has been helpful to me is the faith community. As I have gotten older, my faith has grown stronger. I owe this to the strong faith shown at St. Rita. Over the past year, I have gotten a lot more involved in Campus Ministry. Just this year, I led Kairos 113, which is a retreat for seniors. It was an unbelievable experience as I was able to more openly share the issues that have occurred at home. The overall friendly environment helps relieve stress and allows you to be yourself during school. Daily conversations with Mr. Blazack, our Campus Minister, cracking jokes at one another or just discussing life, has helped me get my mind off some of the negative things in my life. The faith community here has just been terrific. And as I mentioned before, I know my mom loves that I am actually going to mass now. You can thank Rita for that mom.
Athletically, I have wrestled and played baseball every year. The head varsity baseball coach, and Athletic Director Coach Mike Zunica, has pushed me on and off the field. The same goes for the varsity wrestling coach, Coach Dan Manzella. Both men have taught me how to be a better man. They both stayed true to what they promised me way back during that open house. Both had said that I will enter a boy and leave a man. I believe this to be true. These coaches have had an immense impact on my life, showing me how to be a better human being. I can specifically recall how Coach Manzella has taught me that family comes first. Usually, he is the type of coach that never allows practices to be missed. Yet, I remember one November day in my junior year when my mom texted me saying I needed to come home now. My grandmother had just passed away. I was hesitant to ask coach to leave, thinking he’d say no. On the other hand, he looked at me and said, “go take care of your family. That’s the important thing in life.” He taught me right then and there that life is bigger then just sports, or school work. It’s about being there for your loved ones. These lessons are something I will always treasure, and I thank both Coach Zunica and Coach Manzella for helping me buy in to their programs, and St. Rita as a whole.
Now for something that isn’t 100 % known, my future. While I can’t look into a glass ball and see where I’ll be in 5 years, I can make goals that help me strive for success. After graduating St. Rita, I hope to attend a major university, looking to major in business economics. With this degree, I plan on taking the LSAT, attending Law School, and passing the BAR Exam in order to receive my law license. From here I hope to practice law, and eventually open my own firm. Now I realize these are pretty lofty dreams to have. But I can honestly say this doesn’t bother or intimidate me. Reason being I know how to succeed in this world from the morals and ideals I’ve been taught during my time at St. Rita. This is something you don’t get everywhere. How many schools have the family environment where a student can walk down the hall and the principal will know their name by heart? Or where you can find a school where over 90% of the student enrollment is involved in extracurricular activities? There is no environment like St. Rita. I know this was the right place for me. And I thank you for you donations that allowed me to stay enrolled here. In no way have I taken this opportunity for granted, as I have made the most out of every opportunity that has crossed my way. I realize I am unable to pay any of you back for those remarkable donations. So for the past four years, I have tried to pay you, not in money, but in hard work and dedication, to show that not a penny of your donation has gone to waste. Once again, I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you and God bless.