Q&A with the 2020 CBA Valedictorian, Eric Hawkins

In an impressive graduating class of Academy men, CBA senior Eric Hawkins earned the honor of being the 2020 valedictorian. Both in and out of the classroom, Hawkins has embraced the CBA experience, including being a member of National Honor Society and a student-athlete on the cross country and track teams.

Hawkins will be attending the University of Notre Dame next fall and plans to study mechanical engineering.

With commencement on the horizon, Hawkins reflected on his four-year career at the Academy in a question and answer series.

CBALincroftNJ.org: Explain the feeling of earning the right to be called the 2020 CBA valedictorian.

Hawkins: If there was one feeling to describe what it feels to be the valedictorian, it would be gratitude. I am thankful for the many people who helped to make this achievement possible. Through the support of my teachers, classmates, family, and many others, I was never really alone on this journey. In addition, I am grateful for my teammates and coaches on the cross country and track teams at CBA. When the bell rang at 2:30 at the end of every day, I always looked forward to a day at practice. A run with my teammates always seemed to relieve the stress of a hard day at school and refresh my mind before a night of school work.

CBA: During your four years at CBA, what classes did you find the most challenging? While challenging, how did these courses help you grow as a student?

Hawkins: One class that immediately springs to mind is AP Physics C. I found that the highly theoretical nature of the material made solving problems challenging. Despite these challenges, the class has taught me the benefits of collaboration with my fellow classmates. Working together in Physics C allowed us to understand the material to a greater depth and also allowed us to get our work done more efficiently. I’ve learned that “if I can’t explain it, then I don’t know it.”

CBA: Were there any teachers that stood out as great mentors or role models to you? If so, why did you value their teaching?

Hawkins: There are many teachers who were great mentors for me at CBA and I will not be able to name them all. One teacher that I would like to recognize is Mr. Mazzaccaro. As both my junior history teacher and running coach, he has had a strong impact on me over my four years at CBA. As a former CBA runner himself, he knows what it is like to run for CBA, and he has guided me through some of my struggles, both on and off the track. Another teacher that has played a key role in my time at CBA is Mr. Speidel. Math is by far my favorite subject, and his passion for teaching made the class exciting and humorous as I progressed into higher levels of math. I would also like to recognize “Profe” Widdis. As my junior Spanish teacher, I always looked forward to her class, as she always found a way to make learning Spanish fun and interesting. Finally, I would like to mention Mrs. Hayes and Brother Joe who served as my guidance counselors. No matter what issue I had, whether it be academics, sports, or mental health, they were always there to guide me.

CBA: Outside of the classroom, what aspects of CBA did you enjoy the most?

Hawkins: CBA has a great sports tradition. Being a part of the cross country and track teams has been most rewarding. Racing for a storied program is truly special, and I have had some fantastic race experiences. However, what I love the most about CBA running is the support that teammates give to each other. There is nothing like cheering on the “top 7” alongside teammates and alumni at the XC Meet of Champions or for the elite DMR team at Penn Relays. I am glad that I was able to run for a team with a tradition like CBA because you run for more than yourself. You run for three letters across your chest and for every person who has worn those letters before you.

CBA: Finally, what advice would you give the CBA students coming up behind you?

Hawkins: Your time at CBA is what you make of it. There are always people here to guide you and support you along the way. Whether it be a teacher, a brother or a coach, there are people here that want to help you. That being said, it is on you to take advantage of these resources. Go explore your interests, go try something new –  you never know where it might take you. Lastly, cherish every moment. Four years really do fly by, and for some of us, it feels like 3 ¾.

About Christian Brothers Academy:
Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) is a private, Catholic, academic preparatory school for boys located in Lincroft, New Jersey. Founded in 1959 and taught in the Lasallian tradition, CBA is dedicated to helping students become intellectually mature and morally responsible leaders for society. Through the combined efforts of the Office of Advancement and friends of the Academy, CBA awards over $1.75 million in scholarships and financial aid to current students. Experience the Academy at CBALincroftNJ.org.