Q&A WITH ENRIQUE CONDE '97 AND JAMES WEAVER '90, 2020-21 CO-PRESIDENTS OF THE ALUMNI ASSOCIATION BOARD
Q. What's your fondest memory from your days at Ransom Everglades?
JW: There are lots of great memories through the personal relationships established through athletics, whether it be on the gridiron of the football field, hardwood floors with the basketball team, or ultimately contributing to winning a high school team tennis state championship in 1989. The long days at practice competing with each other, pushing each other to be the best that we could be both individually and as a team, helped establish a foundation of longstanding friendships that continue to be cultivated decades later.
EC: My fondest memories of my days at Ransom Everglades are definitely the long hours and miles I spent on the cross country (REXC) and track teams. We were a very close team and had some great times during our runs through the Grove; our 6 a.m. Saturday morning Parrot Jungle practices followed by team breakfast at either JJ’s Diner or Denny’s; Sunday nights practices at the UM field; the road trips and countless other times. The highlight was when we won the state championship in 1995 during my junior year against our archrivals, Pensacola Catholic. I still keep in contact with many of my fellow REXC alumni and we sometimes even go out for a (much slower) run!
Q. What made you interested in this position?
EC: I really enjoyed my time at Ransom Everglades and was very appreciative of the experiences I had here. I made some great friends and memories, so when I moved back to Miami after graduating law school, I wanted to give back to RE in some capacity. It has been amazing to see how the infrastructure of the school has changed since I first stepped onto the middle school campus in 1992, but the RE spirit remains the same. The Alumni Board has allowed me to stay connected to the campus, friends and faculty that have been so important to me over the years.
JW: The core of Ransom Everglades’ values is anchored on Collective Work and Responsibility. It’s part of the culture that makes Ransom Everglades such a unique place. Since the founding of the school, alumni have played a significant role in sustaining many of these pivotal values. I want to do my part in contributing to RE being inclusive with all stakeholders who are vested in sustaining these values, while making efforts to RE-engage and RE-connect with those who may not feel as vested. Each of Ransom Everglades’ alumni is important and it’s the Alumni Board’s responsibility to work towards fostering an environment that ensures everyone feels part of the community. When asked by RE’s leadership team and the Alumni Board if I would consider the role as Co-President, I said yes. I remain humble and enthusiastic to serve the RE community in reaffirming its commitment to Collective Work and Responsibility.
Q. Who was your most influential teacher?
JW: There are many awesome teachers at Ransom Everglades today, as there were during my career as a student. However, Mr. Curtis Way (History Teacher, Tennis Coach and Athletic Director) without question was the greatest influence for me. I recall playing on stadium court in the finals of a tennis tournament at Montana Tennis Club in South Miami. It was a very contentious match that I ultimately won. After the match, Mr. Way approached my mom and me, introducing himself as the tennis coach at Ransom Everglades. At the time, I attended a public high school and had zero interest in considering RE as an alternative institution of learning. I made this very clear to Mr. Way as he made efforts to recruit me. Yet through his persistence, he convinced my family, my teachers, my pastor, tennis coach and ultimately me that Ransom Everglades would be an excellent school to consider. Although it was important to him for me to attend RE, he was more diligent to ensure I had the community and structural support at RE to ensure a distinguished matriculation. Mr. Way not only facilitated my onboarding into Ransom Everglades, he was a dedicated mentor, counselor and life coach during his tenure. He is now retired, and we remain in communication 31 years later. Thank you Mr. Way!
EC: I had so many great teachers and coaches during my time at RE, it would be hard to choose! However, Mrs. [Kitty] Proenza and Mrs. [Buzzie] Borona definitely taught me to love reading and English literature. Also, I would be remiss not to mention Coach [Don] Kappelman, my middle school REXC coach!
Q. What skill or lesson did you learn at RE that has helped you most in the world?
EC: RE taught me to love to learn and to be open and respectful to different perspectives. I learned so much from both the faculty and my friends during my time at RE, which helped me in college, law school and the world in general.
JW: Being open to the fact that everyone is different, everyone’s experiences are not the same and that diversity of thought often can lead to creative solutions and/or breakthrough in delivering value, whether it be in your neighborhood, schools or in business. Once I became open to this as a student at Ransom Everglades, it empowered me to advance my curiosity and better understand the impact of self-awareness and cognitive empathy. Some of my greatest lessons at Ransom Everglades were just as much outside of the classroom by engaging with my peers and teachers in an informal and inclusive environment. These are skills developed as a student at RE that continue to influence and impact me today as a global business leader working in a global economy.
Q. What advice do you give to RE graduates of today?
JW: In the real world, if (and when) you fail it means you are surrounded by the biggest opportunity for growth and learning. Whether your career habits are to play it safe, or take risks… failure is inevitable. Not every idea you have is going to be good; not every presentation you give is going to go well. More importantly failing — if you’re paying attention — shows you how to succeed.
When things get tough, reflect on your education (both inside and outside the classroom), and use it to reaffirm your confidence. Remember what great American essayist and novelist, James Baldwin, once wrote, “If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”
You won't succeed without failing.
EC: I would advise RE graduates to find a good mentor and be a good mentor. There is always someone whom you can learn from that is in a current situation, either educational, professional or personal, for which you strive. You would be surprised to learn how many people are willing to help if asked. Similarly, always be a mentor to the people coming up behind you. No matter your current situation, your experiences and advice could definitely help someone reach their goals.