Pablo Yesaki Serrato never saw himself as a leader before enrolling at Riverside Military Academy.
Yesaki Serrato grew up in Monterrey, Mexico — where he still lives with his parents when not attending the Gainesville boarding school — but he wanted to attend military school to follow in the steps of his grandfather and improve himself. When he first arrived at the school in eighth grade, Yesaki Serrato dedicated himself to being as loyal a follower as he could be, constantly obedient and responsive to orders. But the commanding officer of his company of seventh and eighth graders, known as Alpha company, made an impression on Yesaki Serrato and inspired him to strive for leadership.
“He was kind,” Yesaki Serrato said. “He was direct. He knew when to give instructions. He knew when to be scary. I just saw him as a big brother figure, and I wanted to be that. I wanted to become that big brother figure that would care for others and that others would look up to as well.”
Class of 2020
The Times puts together this special senior recognition each year, highlighting a few standout stories from our local seniors, but this year we’ve added graduation lists from our local schools in an effort to honor as many graduates as we can. We hope you’re inspired by these stories and join us in celebrating the class of 2020. You can view these stories online as well as upcoming photo coverage of this year's graduation ceremonies.
Five years later, Yesaki Serrato has achieved that goal.
He was commanding officer for Alpha company in his senior year and also will graduate as class valedictorian with a 4.21 GPA.
Along the way, Yesaki Serrato has learned a thing or two about leadership.
As he rose through the ranks in the school, Yesaki Serrato figured out that being a good leader is all about striking the right balance between friend and mentor. Through trial and error, he learned that younger kids respect an officer who is kind but not overly lenient, friendly but also serious when he needs to be.
Making personal connections with every member of his company was the best way Yesaki Serrato found to learn and grow.
“I learned that leadership isn’t just about sitting down and giving orders,” he said.
Yesaki Serrato’s time in command of Alpha company has even had a major impact on his career goals.
He will be attending the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education this fall, with plans to one day become a teacher. Yesaki Serrato said he now has a passion for being a role model for younger kids.
He also has a commitment to learning that led him to his valedictorian status at the school.
Yesaki Serrato said he plans on studying everything from math and science to music and philosophy at university.
“I never want to stop learning,” he said.
After graduating from college, Yesaki Serrato said he may move back to the United States, but nothing is set in stone yet.
He’s not sure exactly where his studies will take him, but Yesaki Serrato is certain the mark left on him by Riverside will be permanent.
“Before I went to Riverside, I wasn’t too sure about what I did, why I did it,” he said. “I never really saw myself as someone people would follow. But now I have more self-respect. I’m way more organized, both in my daily life and in my room physically. Riverside has played so many big roles in my life.”
Riverside Military Academy graduating seniors
Steven Abraham III
Marco Rafael Aleman Mendoza
Scott Anderson Jr.
William Lee V
Robert Lindsey Jr.
Eduardo Alexander Matos Santos
Antonio Mccrary II
Juan Pablo Nava
Charles Shropshire Jr.
James Coston Thigpen
Pablo Yesaki Serrato