Coglitore uncovers willpower in light of mother’s lasting tenacity

March 1, 2019 — by Allison Hartley and Shama Gupta

Senior Enzo Coglitore speaks passionately at the Speak Up For Change assembly on Jan. 22.

“I’m a fighter, and I’m a winner,” senior Enzo Coglitore said with a wide smile as he finished his inspiring Speak Up For Change (SUFC) speech on Jan. 22, smacking the lectern for emphasis.

Throughout his speech, Coglitore detailed his experiences with his mom, who passed away at the age of from cancer in 2015. Although Coglitore was initially hesitant to share his story at SUFC week, he wanted to leave a genuine, lasting impact on the school. When he went to the outreach commission and told them his story, he didn’t know if it was “good enough,”  but the commission said it was.

“I felt like I had developed myself enough to where I could take the principles that I’m trying to talk about and show how they are evident in myself,” he said.

During his preparation for the speech, Coglitore reflected on his life before his mother’s passing, prompting the students gathered in the Large Gym to learn from his experiences that “no matter what happens to you, you can still get up, keep going and never give up whatever the stakes are.”

After he was born, Coglitore’s mother, Virginia Coglitore, a 1982 SHS alumna, dealt with heart failure and was diagnosed with a terminal disease called pulmonary hypertension. Coglitore said that through sheer willpower, perseverance and a little bit of luck, his mom became part of the reason that pulmonary hypertension is no longer considered terminal by fighting through her diagnosis for 13 years. In 2015, however, his mom was diagnosed with cancer and passed away that same year. Coglitore was 13.

Coglitore recalled having an epiphany on the first Thanksgiving without his mother. He looked at the effect his mother’s passing had on his body and mind — he had gained weight and was less motivated — but realized that was not how his mother would have wanted him to live.

During the time that Coglitore had with his mother, he described her as always driven. Coglitore, who is known for being outgoing and friendly and is a self-described “lights-on kind of guy,” said that his reflection on his mother’s actions and character as well as his own shaped him into the person that people now see on campus.

“A lot of people ask me how I’m always ready for the day and how I bring in so much energy and positivity,” Coglitore said. “I hope people will understand where that comes from for me and why I live life that way.”

All along, his reason for telling the story was clear in his mind. He simply wanted to help people with what he had learned from his mother, saying, “I wanted to show people what my mother taught me to show, what those principles did for me and what they can do for other people.”

In preparing his speech, Coglitore spent the time to introspectively reflect on how best to convey his chosen message of willpower and perseverance.

“I don’t want to think about my speech because I’m just so nervous,” Coglitore repeatedly said in an interview a few days before the speech. He said he would often find himself restlessly sitting before bed, thinking about how to describe the masks he once wore and “be relevant and have a lesson to be learned.”

Although he refined an approximate outline for his story with the help of friends, Coglitore ended up speaking from the heart without following a set script.

Through the speechwriting process, he found that his words flow better in real time, rather than reading from a script on paper, which he said “feels clunkier.”

Coglitore feels that the audience responded well to his speech and that his message hit home. If the tears in the audience were any indicator of the impact of his speech, then his raw technique — sharing the thoughts in his head and “relying on mostly naturally instinct” — worked.

Despite his initial uncertainties, he is proud of how the event went and glad that he managed to say everything without stuttering.

“I’m happy I did it,” he said. “It gave me an opportunity to self-reflect about who I am and what makes me who I am.”

Through sharing his and his mother’s story, Coglitore ultimately wanted people to recognize that with willpower, there is nothing too tough to overcome.

“My whole lesson is that no matter how hard things are you can keep fighting and you can persevere,” Coglitore said. “No matter how hard things get, you can still get up and keep fighting.”

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