By Carol Masshardt

Education is connected to service for Catholic Memorial graduate, 18-year-old Henry Gailunas. Many peers are headed to college, but this graduate is choosing a different route and one that is driven by knowledge of how he learns and how he wants to contribute. After six years at CM, he is taking a “gap year” to continue working full time at Fat Baby and Petula’s restaurants in South Boston, where he worked since interning as part of the Neighborhood House program. Then, he plans to enter either the Coast Guard or Marines or work in a union position. His ultimate goal is to follow the examples of his grandfather and father and become a firefighter.

“My parents (Peter Gailunas and Maureen Dahill) support me in taking the track I chose. My brother is an electrician in Local 103, and my sister is a nurse. I want to be of service, and I’ll try to get there, and they know that there are different ways to get there,” he said.

“I learned a lot at Catholic Memorial,” said Gailunas, captain of the wrestling team. “I made friends from all over and my two best friends are from Jamaica Plain and Brighton. I’m a hands-on learner, so more school now isn’t for me at least now, but I learned some extremely cool things at CM.”

Henry’s knowledge and confidence expanded and led to a special appreciation for three years of history with Mr. Jordan. “I learned a love of U.S. History. My teacher was great and learning about what happened in this country was interesting. I paid attention,” he said. “There are places ten minutes away that I didn’t know about, and it is all great. I was lucky to have the same teacher for three years.”

No one graduating in 2023 was untouched by the pandemic and it posed challenges for this graduate. “Learning on-line wasn’t good for me,” he said, which happened at the end of his freshman year. “I found it hard to be on a screen and pay attention. It stunk. I like to ask questions of a real person in the same room.” Classes eventually started hybrid which was more compatible with his learning style.

“I learned I like things more personal, and also learned that sometimes you have to adapt and not do things where you’re strong and figure it out,” he said.

Learning in both conventional and unexpected ways, Henry Gailunas has a maturity and ability to communicate about who he is and what matters.

“Even though the academic route isn’t right for me, I learned so much at CM about how to be a leader, and to be well mannered. I think those things matter,” he said with quiet confidence.

Polite and respectful, Henry is a true son of South Boston. “I love it here,” he said, “I feel pride being from South Boston. It’s a small community in a major city, and there’s the water, and being close to everything, and being near my extended family.” Downside? Well, sometimes people think I’m going to be rough around the edges and I’m not. And then there’s the expense now and parking. Everyone wants to be here now, and I really hope I can stay here. It is the best place to live in my opinion.”

Henry Gailunas received an excellent education from his schools, parents, and community. He is also highly likely to make significant contributions as a young adult who values history, service, friends, relatives, and his city. He is eager to continue to gain experience and leadership and has managed a pandemic in addition to  the usual challenges of high school. Respect, willingness to work hard and apply what he has and will learn are bound to be hallmarks of his life. Congratulations, Henry Gailunas. Your community is proud of you.