Olentangy Liberty’s DeLeon is today’s renaissance man
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One might say that Olentangy Liberty High School senior Sean DeLeon has a thing about language. He even admits he is obsessed with culture.
With two visits under to Europe under his belt, the ability to converse in Spanish with native speakers, a family that chats in Italian as they cook in the kitchen, an Austrian grandmother and a father born in Salzburg with other family hailing from Mexico, it is no wonder that Sean hopes one day to work abroad.
His first trip to Europe was with the Blue Lakes Fine Arts Camp International Youth Symphony Orchestra. After his sophomore year, he spent three and a half weeks visiting France and Germany, performing and staying with host families.
It’s completely different, Sean said of Europe, contrasting the European lifestyle with American culture.
“It’s from everything as simple as the clothes,” he said.
Jessica Walker is Sean’s Spanish teacher.
“As a language student, Sean is always striving to attain fluency by using Spanish outside of school as much as possible. He is one of the few students that does not shy away from the challenge of expressing himself in another language. This will serve him well in his future travels abroad as he is expanding his cultural horizons,” she said.
Sean would like to work in Europe eventually. He is still in contact with his host families and hopes to study abroad as well. Wanting to expand his cultural experience even further, he talks of not only learning German, but Chinese as well.
“I’m constantly thinking of opportunities,” he said, noting he does not think it will be too difficult to leave the United States. “I view life as like you only have one life so I’m completely open to multiple opportunities.”
Realizing he has to respect opinions of family members, he said when he was in Europe, he found he was very independent.
This independence rose from a childhood atypical from his peers; his father died when he was five. So there were earlier responsibilities toward a younger brother, and the ability to deal with life without being surrounded by adults.
Sean is applying to the Big 10 colleges, and is torn, ironically, between Ohio State University and University of Michigan. He plans on majoring in mechanical engineering and to study abroad.
With both parents in the engineering field, Sean said his mother influenced his decision as she presented the pros and cons. But this will not be the end of his participation with music as he expects to still be involved in community orchestras.
Prior to deciding on an engineering field, Sean considered a career in music.
“Music is a separate passion for me. It’s always been a passion for me,” adding that in fourth grade he had the option to take either general music or strings. “I was intrigued with strings — and the rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
Sean’s passion for strings has taken him to a variety of levels — from performing with the Blue Lakes Fine Arts Camp International Youth Symphony Orchestra to local performances with the ProMusica Side by Side holiday concert and the Central Ohio Symphony Orchestra among other experiences.
Jill Bixler is orchestra director at the school. She has had Sean as a student for the past four years.
“He is an amazing violinist that shows an advanced level of musical sensitivity and finesse that is not often found in someone so young,” she said, adding, “He has been a joy to have in class, although I must say that he has kept me on my toes.
“I imagine that Sean will be able to accomplish anything that he sets his mind towards doing. He is driven and passionate, and will leave a big space when he leaves us this spring. I am so proud of his accomplishments, especially making the National Honor’s Orchestra, and wish him nothing but the best for the future.”
Sean said his biggest accomplishment thus far was applying to the National High School Honors Orchestra — and making it in. He is in the unique class of only 90 musicians from around the United States that will perform together next spring in Atlanta.
He first applied last June. The entry included two taped pieces, one required and one of his choosing.
One month later he learned he was in the top 30 in Ohio, so after another round and an agonizing two month wait — “so nerve wracking” — he learned on Sept. 3 that he was admitted.
Senior year has been busy so far. Taking five advanced placement courses in the core subject areas this year, it is hard to see where Sean has any time to enjoy his final year in the Olentangy district.
“I’m relieved I’m a senior. It’s bittersweet, but I’m happy to be leaving,” he said. Having attended Olentangy schools since first grade, Sean will be leaving friendships he has had for the past 12 years. “People always say senior year is best; they are so right.”
Most of Sean’s volunteer activities involve sharing his music in venues from church services to nursing homes
“I love to spread music through volunteer work. Music is a universal language,” he said.
Sean was also the senior leader of student mentors for incoming freshmen, volunteers with Olentangy Reads and is secretary of National Honor Society.
“Sean has always been one of the most outgoing students that I have had in class. He never shies away from sharing his opinion and this is why he is a natural leader. He has been a key figure as a senior leader in the Liberty Student Mentors group by consistently showing up after school and during the summer to help organize events,” Walker said. “Sean has a great sense of humor and never lets anything stress him out. Whenever I see Sean in class or in the halls, he is always laughing or making someone else laugh. Sometimes you can hear him laughing all the way down the hall and by the time he enters the classroom, his humorous attitude is infectious.”
Robert Roth teaches Sean Advanced Placement Calculus.
“Sean has impressed me in several different ways. He thinks critically,” Roth said. “He is smart, but not pretentious. With that, he promotes critical thinking amongst his peers, while not offending anyone.”
“Sean is a highly motivated student who performs well both academically as well as musically,” said physics teacher Minda Wesley. He absolutely loves physics and calculus and always asks questions to ensure he thoroughly understands the material. His positive attitude and genuine interest in the subject makes him an ideal student to teach.”
She noted having heard him play in a quartet that it is “easily apparent why he was selected to be a part of the 2012 National High School Orchestra.”
“Sean is a rarity in Olentangy Liberty High School; he is a thrown-back, a renaissance man of sorts,” social studies teacher Peter Krosnosky said. “He can speak intelligently about an array of topics and is not limited to the constraints of his age. I have never had a conversation with Sean about a cellphone, video games or i-anything. Sean stands in a group of few students that enjoys learning for the power that they gain versus the grade they earn. Sean understands the fact that knowledge is power, and enjoys learning for that opportunity.”
If that were not enough, Sean is also very active in the Wilderness Pursuits Club, a club he co-created with his best friend. Participating in a variety of nature activities, he said, “We, and the other members of the group, see the outdoors as a chance to get away from the hectic high school lifestyle. I have always been fascinated with nature and its offerings. I love the serenity, weather (both good and bad), the animals, the feel of a good breeze, the disconnection from society and much more. The comfort of nature is what intrigues me the most because it’s a place for relaxation and it allows me to enjoy the simpler things in life.”
With hopes to return to Europe this summer, Sean is still focused on school and college.
He advises others, “Don’t fall into senioritis, because colleges will look at your discipline and academic records until the last day. Just keep pushing … Senior year is a training year for college. lt’s all about college.”
Sean is the son of Lisa DeLeon of Powell and the late Fred DeLeon.