The Pep offers positive look back at 2020


Esteban Serrano, Lead Editor

A memorable Christmas has just passed, and now the vision is ahead into a what is supposed to be a promising 2021. And, sure, this past year was an unimaginable, unforgettable, and distressing one. A global pandemic caused a lock down and panic, the sports world had stopped for some time, Hollywood was shutting down as well, many well-known icons like Chadwick Boseman, Kobe Bryant, and Alex Trebek passed away, many national events, and local events such as Fiesta, had to be cancelled in hopes of returning next year, and a bogus and tremendous year in U.S. politics turned the country into a divided nation.

In the midst of all that, there IS positivity to be shared. And it’s not the positivity that comes from a COVID test.

These are 15 of the most positive and upbeat stories in and out of the Central Catholic community that made this year an unforgettable one for many. See recaps of each of the stories below as well as a link to The Pep site to access the original stories.

1. Service Day at ADL finds new family addition

A special pet named “Prada” from the Animal Defense League of Texas got a surprise from Science Department Chair and Guardian Angels club sponsor, Mr. Bendele. Pep Adviser Mr. Cassler wrote the heart-warming story.

The Animal Defense League of Texas is a non-profit organization which shelters and rehabilitates neglected, abused, or abandoned dogs and cats. In 2018, they assisted in giving over 5,000 animals new homes. Whenever volunteer programs such as the Guardian Angels visit the shelter, the majority of the time is spent simply playing with these dogs and cats. While these animals are cared for in their new shelters, it can be difficult to fulfill the recreation time all animals desire and need. When our Guardian Angels visited the animal defense league, one particular dog showcased herself enough to catch the eye of sponsor Mr. Bendele. When the visit was over, Mr. Bendele knew what had to be done. 

He adopted the dog, in which he said, “These dogs need a home. Where else would they be otherwise? The streets are no place for a dog… we helped her out and now she does nothing but help us out in return everyday of the week.”

2. “Chosen” concert rocks blend of rap and religion

This past year, I had the pleasure of meeting the “swaggy” and inspirational Joe Melendrez. He is the son of longtime San Antonio Radio Personality Sonny Melendrez. As a part of Marianist Heritage Week, he stopped by the school, his high school Alma Mater, for a special Christian rap concert for his “Chosen” tour.

Joe specifically has and always had a love for hip hop and rap. He explains how his love for rap would inspire him as a young man. “I would write poetry and raps in the back of my notebooks during my English classes here at Central. “Rosary Rap,” which was my first album, was written by me in the back of one of my notebooks during one of my classes.” Joe also explains how music in general is a very powerful tool. “Music connects in a powerful way that other things can not. For me to combine my love for God and love for music is just so important.” Hip hop, being one of the number one genres in the world today, is just something Melendrez says he can build off of, and to try and get people to get closer to God. ‘To be able to use this influence of culture and bring God into it, could be a game changer. My prayer is that everyone knows to love Jesus, and I am doing whatever I can, and hip hop is just one median of connecting Christ to others.”

His concert was a success at Central to say the least, as many students enjoyed the rapping and preaching he did while here. At least you could tell from what the photos show.

3. Hidden heroes are heartbeat of Central Catholic

I had the pleasure of following some of our great maintenance workers and see what their jobs consist of. A daily basis for them consists of cleaning up many areas around the school.

One that stands out to many of the students is Margie Rodriguez, or “Mama Margie,” as many like to call her.

Margie Rodriguez, or “Mama Margie” as most know her, has worked at Central for seventeen years, and says she sees the students as her “boys.” “I love my school and I love my boys. I am just like their second mama,” says Rodriguez. Considering she has three sons of her own, she says she would do anything for the school she loves, and her ‘other’ boys. She also describes the experience of getting to have seen many walk the stage over the years. “I see them from freshman all the way until they graduate, so I have seen them walk the stage so many times, so it is nice to see that.”

To cap it all off, Margie describes what the operations staff does, besides just clean up. “We do a lot of setups and events when they need us so we stay late and do that. I personally work a lot of hours, because I am very dedicated to my job.”

4. Central connection featured in long form video

That’s right… the school got its own TV commercial. Many fellow Buttons were interviewed and featured in the small showcase, as well as the Pep getting to meet the production company with a behind-the-scenes look. David Trevino ’20, had the story.

Claudia Montgomery, a marketing and advertising director, explains how handling the marketing for the school in the past six years has been “amazing.” “It has always amazed me when I get to talk to the young men here, how composed they are, how they appreciate the education they get here, and that they understand the ‘brotherhood’ and the connection the school has,” Montgomery explains. She also explains how  “fun” is always somehow tied into the description of the school. “There is the academics part, and the spiritual part. But then I always love it, because I always hear the word ‘fun.’ You know, it’s rigorous and you want to do the best you can with everything, but if you aren’t having fun, then why are we doing this? I love to hear that the boys here have fun.”

As for the school as a whole, Montgomery explained what she would tell people, if she was sitting in that interview chair. “I do tell people this, because I am Catholic and have friends who are considering what they are going to do with their kids in high school. I always tell them if you want your son to be a part of a community to feel like there is something here for every kid, whether it’s sports, robotics or ROTC, there seems to be a place for each kid, and the part I like about it is the boys will find activity, and those boys will include him. So, you will not walk in and feel like you aren’t a part of it, because you will feel like you are apart of it right away.”

5. Out of this world guest speaks at Central

Central has so many special guests that visit on sometimes a weekly basis or for a special occasion, its almost like the set of Oprah. The pandemic without a doubt brought it to a halt, but one out-of-this-world guest got to speak to some potential astronomy majors at the school. I had the pleasure of meeting Commander Eileen Collins of NASA, and talking with her about some galactic experiences she had while at NASA.

Commander Collins, formerly a pilot on Discovery STS-63 in 1995, Atlantis STS-84 in 1997, and Commander on both STS-114 and Columbia STS-93, describes her success in the galaxy as “doing her job.” “The most important thing was being focused on the job. In our case, what is the particular space shuttle that we are flying? All the missions were a little different. For the commander, you are responsible for the success and the safety of the mission.”

Collins goes into a very deep description of what it was like to be the first female commander and says, “When you are the first to do something, people evaluate what you did as to how future women do. I felt as if I had to succeed, if there were to be future women commanders after me.”

And so there was. Pamela Melroy has become on the second female commander in NASA History, and Collins described what her relationship with Melroy is like, and what they both currently do that involves their love for space.  “Both of us are from upstate New York, which is a coincidence, but we are friends now and we are both retired, but yet we both work with different jobs in the space program. Pam and I were test pilots and we both graduated from the Air Force Test Pilot School at different times.”

6. Soccer team earns fourth straight state title

A group of committed and capable talent? Or is it just pure luck? We’ll go with the first answer…

The Button Soccer team took home their fourth straight State championship, and historically are hunting for five this upcoming year. Mr. Cassler shares the story of their success, and the outstanding leadership behind Head Coach Edward Cartee.

The Central Catholic soccer team continued its TAPPS championship streak under Coach Edward Cartee by defending their state title Saturday at Waco ISD Stadium with a hard fought 2-1 win over El Paso Cathedral.

Jose Gallegos gave the Buttons a 1-0 lead midway through the first half with a goal, then later, with barely more than a minute left in the Division I match, Gallegos also scored the game-winning goal to take away all of any breath that was left out of El Paso Cathedral’s hopes for a state victory. This impressive culmination to the 2019-20 soccer season represents Central’s fourth straight state title championship. The title is also their fifth in seven years, and ninth overall.

7. Streaming services provide cinema in solitude

If there’s one hobby many established in 2020, its TV-watching. Streaming services really came through for a lot with limited activities to take part in, at the start of the pandemic. David Trevino ’20 shared his list of entertaining things to watch. Click the link above to see his recommendations and re-watch them.

8. “The Last Dance” pulls in six million viewers

One documentary (Besides Tiger King) that many took a look at in the summer was “The Last Dance.” The ESPN documentary includes rare, and exclusive footage, interviews, and behind-the-scenes of Michael Jordan and the Bulls during their 1998 championship season. David Trevino ’20 wrote the piece about the nostalgic and riveting documentary.

Last night, over 6 million viewers worldwide tuned in worldwide to ESPN to witness lost footage of one of the most dominant sports teams ever. With more than 6 million viewers, “The Last Dance” became the most watched ESPN documentary ever, nearly doubling the next viewed total. Premiering on April 20, 2020,  the footage delved into the affairs of the 97’-98’ Chicago Bulls, and the historic years that led up to that season.

9. Comfort food helps to out the doubt

So while watching your favorite new show during lock down, you had to have enjoyed a good meal. This year, I had the pleasure of talking with Matthew Milligan ’20, who is a well-known competitive chef and former JROTC Cadet. An inspiring young man who has talent in making BBQ. Much came from the comfort foods he shared with me to help get through a weird and tough time.

10. Faculty celebrates Seniors of class of 2020

Graduation just wasn’t normal for the seniors of 2020, and it caused for plans to become only dreams. Teachers and staff at the school made sure it wasn’t completely blue for the class of 2020. They did so in a very unique way as well. David Trevino ’20, had the story.

Since the unfortunate and abrupt end of the school year at Central, our community has gone lengths to ensure our senior class gets celebrated in the best way possible. From social media posts, to faculty members driving to every seniors house to drop off a special Central tee shirt, our seniors have felt the love from our school in a time where actions of love are imperative. Our community extended these efforts this past Friday in very cool fashion. Fatheads of every senior’s cap and gown pictures were hung up at the entrance of our school, making for a very cool, but most importantly celebratory scene. 

The portrait signs were put together and arranged in the grass Thursday morning, making sure they would be visible for the also celebratory Mother-Son event that would take place later that day. Several faculty members including Mrs. Sosa, Senora Garcia, Coach Nelson, and Mrs. Winston gathered at Central to assist in the putting up of the signs. With the class of 2020 being the largest class Central has seen in decades, this would definitely be no easy task. Math teacher Ms. Hanson gave a heartwarming response when asked why she took time out of her schedule to help put up the portraits saying, “it was so good to come together to do what teachers do best: which is support and celebrate our students”. 

11. School years begins with Adaptation and Change

Like many other educational institutions, school went back to what administration called the “hybrid” phase. With that, the idea of being able to be back in the classrooms was promising enough.

Some teachers have had their own personal experiences dealing with the severeness of the pandemic, and giving students an education. Fabiola Mendez, a fifth year Spanish instructor at Central, says, “…the adjustment has been a little rough…I miss my boys tremendously.” Daniel McCarthy, an English instructor going on his seventh year, suggests his work ethic and adjustment to the first three weeks were “unusual” by saying, “As a teacher, you’re used to having to adapt…every class is different and every student is different…the work is still the same, only you have to approach it differently. Teaching online doesn’t change how you build relationships with students or share content.”

As for that first historic day of instruction on August 17, teachers were just as nervous as students were. Mendez says, “The very first day was exciting!  I loved seeing the students and especially my older kids and hearing about their lives these past months.”

McCarthy says, “It was stressful, it was very new, it was weird…It’s different on how you see a student on the first day of school compared to on a screen…you can only read so many expressions.”

12. #Noahstrong: the ongoing story of one senior’s journey

In an ongoing series the Pep currently has, we highlight one incredibly strong and smart Central Senior, Noah Adams. Adams was diagnosed with Ewing-Sarcoma back in July after a skateboarding accident that lead to a long-term injury, and shocking MRI results. His mom, Debi Harper, has remained ever present and strong beside him as he continues his battle.

Adams says, “At first, they didn’t exactly know what it was…The appointment that I had for her (his sports doctor) was for my arm, because I had an issue with it… I couldn’t straighten it out, so I had them look at that.”

Then after a scare with his legs and how they bent, Adams says the sports doctor recommended MRI’s after an abnormalities. “When the MRI came back, she was like, ‘I don’t know how to say this, but you have cancer….’ ”

Adams continues saying, “For the first two or three seconds my heart dropped then after that I was like well, I have to beat it.”

Those words ultimately gave Noah Adams the calmness, courage, faith, and strength to be able to continue fighting for his life.

According to the St. Jude Children’s Research website, “Ewing sarcoma is the second most common type of bone cancer in children, but it is very rare. About 200 children and young adults are found to have Ewing sarcoma each year in the United States.”

13. Button defense holds on for Homecoming win

Despite all the controversy, TAPPS football was still played this season. Ups and downs and unexpected events left the Buttons in a roller coaster of a season. With that, homecoming was certainly a success. Mr. Cassler shares the story of the success.

The hard-fought 28 to 27 win over St. Pius X from Houston put a nice, tidy ribbon on what has been an interesting (to say the least) and historical two week Homecoming for the Central Catholic community. October 16th’s Friday night game, the week that was supposed to be Homecoming, was cancelled due to a COVID positive testing on the opponent teams side, and the athletic department scrambled to get a game together, which ended up being played a week later, last Friday night at Bob Benson, ’66 stadium.

14. ‘R2D2’ adds “extra layer of comfort” on campus

We were introduced to a special robot looking to keep the surfaces of Central Catholic free of COVID-19. A Xenex Robot named ‘R2D2’ was placed on campus to disinfect with its state-of-the-art UV ray technology. I got to speak with Melinda Hart, spokesperson for the company based right here in the Alamo City.

“Interestingly, when the pandemic began, one of the first things we did was engage Texas Biomedical Research Institute here in San Antonio, to test our robot against SARS-COV-2,” Hart says. In a hospital, Hart says, “The studies show that less than half the surfaces in that room are disinfected. That means when you think about a tray table, or a bed rail, or a nurse call button, or remote control, even after the room has been cleaned by the hospital cleaning team… half the surfaces in that room still have contamination on them.”

“…their studies show the robot was able to achieve a 99.99% level of disinfection. So we killed 99.99% of the virus within two minutes,” Hart continued.

Hart has been present on campus in the past, and has observed demonstrations in various places around Central’s campus. “We came in… and needed to shoot some video for a TV story, and so Central Catholic was kind enough to let us come in and we disinfected the front office, then we went into the locker room and the weight room and the gym…”

15. Faculty enjoys annual Christmas gathering

COVID-19 did not stop or intimidate the school’s staff and them having their annual Christmas Gathering. In the heart of the season, dinner was served and a Christmas theme put an end to a weird, long, and stressful first semester. Mr. Cassler shares the story of what went down.

Undaunted by a holiday season taking place during a pandemic, the Central Catholic faculty and staff gathered for their annual Christmas function on December 18 in the historic gym. The event signals the end of the Fall semester, but also ushers in the start of the Christmas break for the Central community.

To top everything off,  the past year was historic, unforgettable, debatable… whatever you want to call it, there was still positivity in the midst of uncertainty. On behalf of the Pep, we would like to wish all of our readers a delightful and safe rest of Christmas break, and we look forward to bringing you more stories in 2021. Happy New Year! and stay healthy and happy.

Mr. Cassler
Mr. Bendele
Demitri Garcia
Mr. Cassler
Mr. Cassler
Esteban Serrano
Esteban Serrano
Esteban Serrano
Esteban Serrano
Demitri Garcia
Demitri Garcia
Demitri Garcia

Esteban Serrano

image by: KJ Soto
Mr. Cassler
Mr. Cassler
Mr. Cassler
Mr. Cassler
Mr. Cassler
Debi Harper

Mr. Cassler
Esteban Serrano
Mr. Cassler
Esteban Serrano

Mr. Cassler
Mr. Cassler
Mr. Cassler
Mr. Cassler