Even though it’s a 25-mile morning rush-hour journey from Santa Clarita to Encino, it makes sense that Matthew Salerno would make the weekday commute, given that Crespi High School is where his dad, Mike, and his older brother Michael went to school, and where his younger brother Christopher is a freshman.
But it’s more than family tradition that makes Matthew — a three-sport star athlete, honor roll student and ASB president — tackle the 50-mile round-trip journey as enthusiastically as he tackles opposing ball carriers from his free safety position on the gridiron.
“My parents have always stressed religious education, that it’s a lifelong process,” said the amiable 17-year-old senior. “And Crespi is a place where we can focus on our faith, on growing together as friends, on building a brotherhood that will last well after graduation.”
Born in Glendale, Matthew and his brothers were raised in Santa Clarita by Mike (a real estate broker) and Whitney (a kindergarten teacher), attending St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church and Our Lady of Perpetual Help School. Attending Catholic high school was a given, and while he was a bit unsure about attending an all-boys institution, he fully embraces the Crespi life. “No girl distraction, less drama and we can focus on school,” he said with a smile.
He began playing sports at an early age, but never played organized football until his freshman year at Crespi.
“My brother Michael (now an SMU freshman) played football and really liked it,” said Matthew, a wide receiver as well as free safety, “and now it’s my favorite sport.” He is also captain of Crespi’s soccer team, plays lacrosse (which he took up a year ago) and previously ran track.
“I like the brotherhood that forms in team sports, working together toward a common goal,” he said. “Team success means so much more than individual honors.”
That attitude, formed by faith and family, carries into nonsports activities on and off campus. Matthew is active in campus ministry as a member of Crespi’s Acolytes Club, whose members serve as altar servers at school Masses; volunteers at Tarzana Hospital in the children’s ward, helping decorate for the holidays; and has helped organize a senior class service project to enable Crespi seniors to serve as mentors for students at Our Lady of the Valley School in Canoga Park.
“I enjoy seeing other people happy,” he said, “and knowing that I can help others not only motivates me to do more, but it gives me a sense of accomplishment, which is much more meaningful than any personal success, like getting an A in class or scoring a touchdown.
“Service is an opportunity for me to look outside myself and at the same time realize how lucky and blessed I am to have two parents, a good family and a roof over my head. So I feel I have a responsibility to help others.”
Academically, he’s been on the President’s Honor Roll every semester of high school (GPA of 4.0 or higher), is currently enrolled in five AP courses and has designs on a career either in engineering (“I really like science and math”) or business. He’s been accepted to the University of Notre Dame as well as SMU, but is waiting to hear from other schools before he makes a decision in the spring.
“I’d like to continue playing football, and I’m open to playing soccer,” he said, “but it depends on where I go to college and the coaches.”
Regardless of where he goes to school, what sport he plays or what career he pursues, however, Salerno is confident that his Catholic faith will be there through every moment, good and not-so-good.
“Everything is in God’s hands,” he said quietly, “which means you’re never fully in control with what happens. And success won’t always come in the way you intend it to; you need to be open to other possibilities. So having faith in God is really important to me.”
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