By Jeff Simpson
Mike Reilly grew up in Vienna Virginia. With a dad from Chicago and a mom from Spain, he grew up speaking both Spanish and English in a very unique household. He always loved soccer and played it throughout his childhood, but says that “My family is what makes home home for me.” He loves going home and spending time with his parents and his three younger siblings.
Mike attended a Catholic high school, along with the sons of President Jim Towey before they moved to Ave Maria. When it was getting to be time for him to start looking at colleges, president Towey invited a group of boys from the high school come for a visit, and Mike fell in love. He says he joined the group travelling down to get a free vacation to Florida, but as he left “It felt like leaving home.” He forgot about the state school options he had been looking at, and eventually chose Ave over university in Spain.
Mike is now a senior at Ave. He is a politics major and after graduation he will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. He has always had some interest in the military, his father was in the army, but Ave really helped to solidify that desire, and instilled in him valuable virtues for the service while allowing him to learn a lot more about himself. From Ave Mike says he has learned “leadership, self-service, and sacrifice” along with growing much stronger in his faith. He cites all of these things as huge factors in his decision to pursue a career in the marine corps. He also says that being an RA for two years, and now in his third, has had a huge impact on him. “At Ave being an RA is so much more than a job, it’s a vocation, it’s a calling.” He loves serving others and helping others to improve their lives, and says that seeing someone change their life for the better when they have been struggling is the most rewarding thing he has ever experienced, and hopes to be able to help his men in the same way when he is an officer. Over the past summer he attended and graduated from the United States Marine Corps Officer Candidates School. Mike graduated as one of the very top performers in his class and says that he is proudest to have represented Ave Maria well among men from top schools all over the nation.
Mike also spent time in Spain this past summer, and got to see his grandparents who are getting on in years, which he really enjoyed. He feels like Spain is home, “When I landed in Madrid I felt like I had always been there since I was a little kid.” Mike went with an Opus Dei group to a boy’s camp where he taught English and served as a counselor. Instead of payment, Mike was invited to join them to go to world youth day in Poland, which Mike calls “the biggest treat of my life.” He joined them on a nine-day bus ride through Europe which was “The worst bus ride of my life, but probably the best at the same time.” He loved the experience of passing through and visiting seven countries on the journey. He says it was very refreshing to see how people live in those countries. He really enjoyed the culture, especially the architecture. He then had an incredible time at World youth day before driving all the way back to Spain on the bus, before flying home.
Mike has enjoyed the experience at Ave because it is such a stark contrast with most universities in the modern world. Mike points to this as a reason that some will leave Ave, because they aren’t having the experience so many people think they want, but he says that what Ave offers is so much more valuable, and is a much better opportunity to grow in maturity and responsibility. He spends most of his time doing schoolwork, working as an RA, leading the Alethes household, and volunteering in the very impoverished town of Immokalee as a soccer coach at Immokalee Soccer School. He has seen and experienced the positive effects which Ave has on people, and encourages anyone who finds themselves thinking that the grass on the other side is greener to hold on and allow Ave to effect them as well.
After Graduation Mike plans to accept his commission to be a second lieutenant in the USMC. He will go to the basic school, and after that serve four years of active duty followed by four years in the reserves. He hopes he is able to maintain the good habits which he has formed here at Ave. Looking back on his time Mike says there are too many good memories and adventures with his friends to think of a specific one that stands alone. Ave has had a tremendous effect on him and who he is, and going forward he says he has a big focus on maintaining his prayer life “Because without that, handling the responsibility and the stress of military life, especially as an officer, you’ll crumble. I think Ave has set me up, it’s given me the tools to be able to do that. Not only to be a leader, but to be a good follower of Christ.”