Leo Ibañez “A lot of people have had some rough times, but they can make it here because it's a gradual process. SMC is the ideal stepping stone to getting on with life.”

Leo Ibañez takes lessons in life where he finds them: in the books on science that he devours, and in the oceans that he surfs in search of the perfect wave. “Surfing has a lot of negative connotations because it’s seen as a slacker sport,” explains Leo. “But it really requires a lot of discipline, which is the key to life.” And while he studies English, which he hopes will lead to a career in writing, Leo has also absorbed a lot of valuable lessons from the SMC campus at large.

“I feel I’ve had a lot of great influences here from the teachers, but also from the students at SMC,” he says. “There are people from all walks of life here, and you quickly learn not to narrowly classify people: we all have something very individual to offer.” Among individuals who have made a standout impression on Leo are two SMC instructors from the very different fields of English and karate. “Mr. Di Pietro is my English teacher, and he’s incredible,” says Leo. “He doesn’t just lecture, he instructs. And that gives me and other students the chance to actually get involved in discussion. We learn so much more when we feel like the knowledge and the thoughts of the teacher are fresh. It stretches your thinking.” And Darrell Goode’s karate classes are another place where stretching is important to Leo.

“It’s great fun studying with Darrell and it gives me the perfect balance to sitting at a desk most of the day,” says Leo, who has earned his first martial arts belt. “You get extra confidence because you find the center in yourself. You feel at peace, and that’s important in gaining focus. In school, as in karate, you need to concentrate your thoughts on what you’re learning that day. If you let yourself get too distracted, something bad just might ‘tag’ you.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.