By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published May 15, 2014
Our Lady of Mercy High School nominated Essai Flores as its outstanding senior, noting that Essai is a “true Mercy success story.” Earning a scholarship to a prestigious university, Essai will be the first one in his family to attend college, an accomplishment that is “a defining moment for his family.
FAYETTEVILLE—Essai Flores will be the first person in his family to pursue a college education.
Flores, who graduates this month from Our Lady of Mercy High School in Fayetteville, has received a $45,000 scholarship to attend New York University in New York City.
“I started screaming,” said Flores about receiving the acceptance letter. He said he went around the school to thank all of his teachers, who wrote recommendations for him.
Without the scholarship award, Flores would not have been able to attend NYU, where he wants to major in psychology. Ultimately, he plans to practice psychiatry.
“It was a big blessing,” he said.
Flores is the son of Rufino and Maria Torres Flores of Jonesboro. His sister, Melina, is in the sixth grade at St. John the Evangelist School in Hapeville. The family attends St. John the Evangelist Church.
Flores said his parents are from a part of Mexico where education is not that valued. His father was the first in the family to graduate from high school.
“Their opinion on education shifted a lot,” said Flores about his parents.
Flores said attending Our Lady of Mercy has helped him in many ways.
“The thing that’s changed most is my confidence level,” he said.
As a student, he tried many activities during high school, including running cross country, swim team, drama club, the International Thespian Society, Quiz Bowl and Model United Nations. He also volunteered.
One of his favorite experiences was attending cross country camp in Tennessee as a junior. “It was one week and very immersive,” said Flores. When they were not running, students had the chance to go spelunking.
Flores advises incoming freshmen to keep a schedule using an agenda. “I write everything down,” he explained. On the social side, Flores recommended that students “get themselves out there” by trying different activities. “Don’t just go to school,” he said.
Quiz Bowl is an activity Flores never expected to do but really enjoyed. He also tried sports despite his claims of not being very athletic.
With each activity or club joined, you form a “little family,” said Flores. And team sports are a different kind of bond, he added.
In his junior year, Flores started taking part in theater productions. This year, he played George the Best Man in Mercy’s production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
“I was so nervous,” he recalled. Flores said he plans to be involved in theater productions as a hobby later in life.
Flores mentioned several teachers who helped him.
“They build a relationship with you,” he said about Our Lady of Mercy’s educators.
Matt Hofkes taught him as a freshman and coached him throughout high school in cross country.
“Essai is a thoughtful person with an exceptional personality. He is very well liked by his classmates because he is so good at just being himself. This is a rare quality among high school students,” said Hofkes. “I’ve always been impressed by Essai’s willingness to help me out as a teacher and the cheerful demeanor he brings to what he does.”
Flores said government is probably his favorite class.
“I love the way nations work,” he said.
Putting faith into action, he volunteered to help build a Habitat for Humanity home.
Another volunteer activity for Flores is going to serve meals at St. Francis Table, the soup kitchen program of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta.
He and carpooling friend Rachel Jinks have gone regularly since ninth grade to help at St. Francis Table.
“We go at least once a month, said Flores. “It felt really nice to get to give something that people fundamentally need, and it sort of opened my eyes.”
Flores said more than anything he has appreciated how accepting the environment is at Our Lady of Mercy and enjoys the one-on-one conversations with friends. Discussions of varying viewpoints are common.
“They are always civil,” he said of these mini-debates. “We want to come together. It doesn’t affect our friendships.”