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Bishop O’Connell senior finds joy in serving others

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Closing up at Shake Shack one night, Zakk Beaulieu saw that his boss was about to throw away 20 extra chicken tenders. He asked if he could make sandwiches with them instead. 

Later, as the Bishop O’Connell High School senior offered the sandwiches to several hungry homeless men outside Arlington Courthouse Metro, one of them started talking to him. 

“He said he sees God in me. And he told me not to rush to know things — I would know them at the right time.” 

Beaulieu was amazed, because “I am always on a search to know things, to know what this world really is,” he said. How the homeless man could see this in him was a mystery, but, “I saw God working through him,” he added.

Beaulieu shared the experience at a recent Kairos retreat he helped lead in a talk about “how we can see God in our own lives, and how we are a part of God’s love. We can open our hearts and be loving toward others.”

“I didn’t know until halfway through the retreat that ‘kairos’ means ‘the right time.’ It’s crazy when you take a step back and look at everything,” he said.

Articulate and introspective, Beaulieu calls himself “a very spiritual person,” who makes time for prayer, meditation and being outside in nature. “Reconnecting with myself is a very big part of who I am,” he said. 

He’s also very focused on family and what he calls his “French identity.” His dad grew up in Arlington, but his mom is from the suburbs of Paris. Every summer (until last year, because of COVID-19) he and his mom, dad and two brothers would travel to France and drive around the country visiting her large Algerian family. 

“When I got to high school, I took French because I wanted to learn how to read and write and speak better,” he said. “It’s very important to me to be able to communicate with my family; it’s a key aspect to having a good relationship.” 

He takes AP French 6 and has been active in French Club and French Honor Society, as well as the Young Men’s Executive Club, Blood Donor Club and swim team. He also runs and works out. Juggling these activities and working full time on weekends has helped him develop excellent time-management skills. 

His French fluency has led to mentoring and tutoring several O’Connell students, including a French-speaking transfer student from Cameroon. “It’s really cool to see somebody grow, and I found a joy in being of service. We’re all supposed to be there to help each other.” 

Beaulieu knows that he also has grown “exponentially” in the past few years. 

“Freshman year was difficult. I didn’t know what I wanted and where I wanted to be,” he said. “But I’m glad I went through that time of difficulty. It’s really transformed the person I am.”

He plans to attend Christopher Newport University in Newport News, studying either business, to become an entrepreneur like his dad, or perhaps education. “I like teaching and being a leader, and I like to learn,” he said, rattling off a long list of subjects he enjoys. 

For now, he’s just trying to “figure out a good balance between the things I enjoy doing and the things I have to do. I recognize that life’s not going to be perfect and I’m still going to face challenges on this journey of life and who I am. But you know you can get through it and everything’s going to settle into its place. 

“Today’s a new day and this is a new moment,” he said.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021