Concord Academy’s dedication to diversity — of backgrounds, perspectives, and talents — is written into its very mission. It may not be apparent at first glance, but a commitment to providing financial assistance is integral to CA’s identity as a school renowned for teaching individuals who go on to make their mark on the world. In no other way can the best possible combination of students be brought together, regardless of socioeconomic status, culture, language, location, or beliefs. CA changed the lives of this alumnus, who received financial assistance to attend, and he, in turn, shaped the school and the experiences of his peers for the better. Now he’s giving back to CA and helping to ensure access for a new generation of students.
Upon turning 25 last May, Lewis Salas ’09 decided it was time to fulfill a long-held dream: running the New York City Marathon. When he pinned on his number on November 6, he was also running to raise funds for TEAK, the New York City academic enhancement program that recognized his talent as an inner-city middle schooler and helped him sharpen his skills and find his way to CA, where he received a four-year scholarship.
Salas says he sensed when he first stepped onto CA’s campus that it was the school for him. “Here I was, this kid from Washington Heights walking into Concord,” he recalls. “But it was such a welcoming place, with a warm, family feel. I knew it would become a home away from home for me.”
Salas credits Pat Dresden, his advisor and the wife of then-Head Jake Dresden, with helping him flourish. “She was my second mom,” he says. “She helped me with skills and challenged me in ways I couldn’t do for myself. She saw something in me and believed in me, and that helped me see that I could, in fact, do it. The Dresdens are still a big part of my life, along with so many of the friends I made there. At CA people accepted me for who I was and let me grow, and that’s something I still carry with me.”
After graduating from Bowdoin College in 2013 and working in high finance, Salas realized he wanted to be part of a small team where he could have a big impact. So in 2015, he joined x.ai, a New York City-based tech startup that is designing an artificial intelligence personal assistant, called Amy. “I really love the work,” he says. “I’ve been able to use my technical skills but also those I learned in CA English classes — critical thinking and communication, all things I really enjoy doing.”
As Salas trained for the marathon, he hoped his running would also allow him to have an impact on TEAK. “I learned at CA that I shouldn’t just live for myself but for the world around me,” he said. “So this is one way for me to give back.”