Past Saints Cross Paths at West Point
At Notre Dame Prep we take pride in the fact that many of our students go on to military academies and to serve our country after graduation. Forming leaders across all occupations is built into our curriculum.
As we approach our twentieth anniversary as a Catholic high school in the Diocese of Phoenix, it was only a matter of time before generations of Saints would meet beyond our campus.
At the start of the 2022 school year at the United State Military Academy at West Point, Steve Casares, ‘05 and Christian Sarlitto, ‘20, met in MX400, a leadership class for West Point juniors where Casares was teaching. On the first day of school, Carares, a newly minted instructor at West Point, asked his students to introduce themselves.
Sarlitto stated his name and noted that he was from Scottsdale, AZ. “Yeah? What high school did you go to?” Casares asked, fully expecting the answer to be Chaparral or Desert Mountain.
“Notre Dame Prep,” Sarlitto answered.
“No way! That is where I went to school,” the major replied. Sarlitto asked what year he graduated and Casares said, “I’m the OG, class of 2005 (which was the first graduating class of Notre Dame Prep).”
Both men agree that Notre Dame Prep prepared them for service through our school’s shared values of reverence, respect and responsibility and academic excellence. “I enjoy having Christian in my class,” Casares said. “He consumes information in a different way than other students, he is attentive, and I appreciate the way he thoroughly frames questions.”
Prior to his arrival at West Point, Casares worked in Military Intelligence as a contractor at the Pentagon. He was an economic intelligence analyst. Although not currently assigned to a unit, Steve is still a major in the United States Army Reserves.
He feels that his military experience and educational background exemplify one of his favorite quotes about leadership: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – President John F. Kennedy.
Casares’s military education includes the Military Intelligence Officer Basic Course, Foreign Disclosure Officer Course, Brigade S2 Course, and the Military Intelligence Captain’s Career Course. Steve holds an M.A. in International Commerce and Policy from George Mason University’s School of Policy and Government, Arlington, Virginia.
“I love having Mr. Casares as a teacher,” Sarlitto said. “It is cool to see how similar of a path I am on to the one he followed in life. He has shown me in a little over a month that he is a great person to go to whenever I need advice or help.”
The two hit it off at once and started comparing “notes” to find out what NDP teachers they had in common. “We found out that Mr. Gwinn had written both of our letters of recommendation for West Point,” Sarlitto said. “Ever since then, we have continued to share the experiences and stories we have from NDP.”
Sarlitto believes the heavy course load and choice for honors and AP classes at NDP prepared them for the rigorous academics and strict routine at West Point. "The discipline at NDP regarding tardiness, haircuts, shaving, and uniforms made the transition to military life easier for me. Many of my friends never had any of this and it was more of a culture shock for them,” he added.
Upon graduation from West Point, Sarlitto will take a different path from Casares. He is hoping to branch army aviation but the two will always be united as intelligent leaders and Forever Saints!