Chase-ing The Dream

The sound of bowling pins ringing on the ground is piercing to most people’s ears. But to Chase Valenzuela, it is the sound of success. It reminds him of a long journey starting in his high school days.

Chase Valenzuela, ’15, attended Arkansas State University after graduation to study law, later transferring to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, but he soon realized that it was not his passion. Valenzuela found his love in home renovation projects. This led him to start his own business and keep up his high school bowling hobby. 

To get to where he is today, Valenzuela first had to create a work ethic in high school. Retired English teacher, Mr. Steve Wells said, “I taught Chase his junior year. In my class, each person had to give a five-minute interpretive speech approved by me. I would have three of their classmates give a grade, and I would give them a grade. Chase selected the final scene of A Time to Kill where he plays a lawyer. He gave the summation speech to the jury. [His peers] gave him 100, 101, 102. I gave him 110. It was that good and on-point.

“He would largely go unnoticed. He didn’t draw any attention to himself, but he was rocksteady. Anytime Brother Richard or someone needed a volunteer, he was there. He was the meat-and-potatoes Catholic High boy. He was never in trouble and always ready to help.”

In high school, Valenzuela struggled to find an extracurricular that he enjoyed until he stumbled upon bowling. He said, “I went out and didn’t make the team for basketball, but Coach  [Tim] Ezzi asked if I wanted to be the manager, so I would do that. I sometimes got to practice and do drills, and I would go out with the team sometimes and do the film. I joined ROTC, which was really enjoyable. Getting into bowling was amazing though. I was pretty good at it. I was probably top two on the team. I had an outlet to do all the things I wanted to do.”

After getting through college, Valenzuela started working as an attorney at a law firm but didn’t think it was for him. “I worked as a legal assistant,” he said. “I worked there for right over a year and a half. I got promoted from legal assistant to collections manager, so I was over a department after about six to eight months. I had worked ahead of a lot of other guys who were there before me. But, I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like being at a desk all day. I didn’t like being on the phone all day. I just can’t sit still, and this job made me learn that about myself. So, I left in January or February of 2020.”

Over the Covid lockdown, Valenzuela found a new joy in his life. He said, “Everyone was kept in their house, so I started doing some home improvement stuff around our house. I found myself really enjoying it. I was able to go at my own pace, it was engaging, and I could move around it wasn’t the same thing every time. 

“It was a little stressful getting my own schedule and all that, but the actual work was really fun. So, I started my own business. I got the license and got a magnet with my phone number on it to put on the back of my truck. After my first two jobs, I got some good reviews on a local Maumelle website, and it has blown up after that. So, I now work in the pro shop [inside of Millennium Bowl], I do construction work for my business, and I bowl. That about takes up every minute of my time.” 

When he can, Valenzuela also helps coach the school’s bowling team. He said, “I remember when I was in high school with two 12-pound balls and no coaching at all. Michael Surely, whom I didn’t know at the time, came up to me after one practice and asked if I was physically injured and I told him ‘no.’ He told me to get a 15-pound ball of my own and just walked away. 

The next Wednesday I came in and Surely handed me a ball and said, ‘Here you go.’ Surely was always [at the bowling alley]. He would get off work early, at that time, so that he could come and help coach some of the high schools. He was the guy who really propelled me forward. I think about that moment a lot with Surely. If he hadn’t walked up to me and just handed me a ball, I don’t think I would have taken it as seriously. And bowling is now one of the biggest aspects of my life, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. If I could do that for anybody, even just one person, it would mean the world to me because of how much it meant to me when Surely did it.”

Michael Surely is a worker in the pro shop inside Millenium Bowl alongside Valenzuela. Mr. Surely has known him for years and has watched him grow. He said, “[During high school], he was a very nice and well-mannered boy. And now, he’s Chase. As he’s grown up, his mouth has grown more than anything, but I love the guy. He is very confident and isn’t afraid to make his opinions known.”

Valenzuela has grown up to become everything that the school represents in a man. Mr. Wells said, “He is the bread and butter of Catholic High. He’s the type of boy who would graduate from Catholic High and be where he is today because of his integrity and his work ethic.”

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