Page 1

Making their name Page 6

September 2019 Volume 1, Issue 1


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•Meridiana •Sterling Lakes


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•Meridiana •Sterling Lakes

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From the Editor

W

elcome to the first edition of 288 Life. At The Alvin Sun Media, we are excited you are joining us in our first foray into neighborhood news with this monthly magazine. Our goal is to produce a magazine every month that will discuss news that is important to you and deliver it right to your mailbox. With The Alvin Sun and The Alvin Advertiser newspapers, The Alvin Sun Media has been covering news related to Alvin and Manvel for decades. With our communities expanding into the Iowa Colony and Pearland areas and with Alvin ISD growing quickly in the area, we made the decision to venture into a different new source to make sure you get news that is important to the families that live in the areas our traditional newspapers don’t cover. So here we are. We hope you enjoy reading the stories about the people and businesses in the area and find something new to try or experience. As we move forward with 288 Life, we hope to get more involved with your communities, meeting residents and families, business owners, club participants and learning more about the schools that impact your lives day in and day out. And we could always use some help. While we have representatives in the area several times a week, we don’t live there and we certainly can’t hear about all the exciting things going on. So I am asking you to help. If you know someone living in your neighborhood who has a good story, please let me know. If there’s an event coming up that we should attend, pass that on as well. If you take an amazing picture (yes, even of your kids) you think your neighbors would like to see, send it to me. We could also use some help writing stories important to your neighborhoods. If you enjoy writing and think you would like to give it a shot, drop me a line. With your help we hope to make this magazine something you look forward to getting every month. This first issue is just the beginning of what we hope will be a fun and exciting venture for those of us putting it together and those who get to read it every month. If you need me or you have information to pass on, please email publisher@alvinsun.net or give me a call at 281-331-4421. Thank you. I hope you enjoy 288 Life.

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•Meridiana •Sterling Lakes

288 LIFE

Living in Meridiana & Sterling Lakes

EDITOR AND PUBLISHER David Rupkalvis publisher@alvinsun.net

Editorial Writers and Photographers David Rupkalvis Joshua Truksa Stephen Collins Prentice C. James Copy Editor Sheri Saenz Graphic Designer Linda Knight

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WHAT’S INSIDE

10 Cover Photo Pearland’s Noah Haileab celebrates after winning 15-16B division fourth place in the 1500 meter run, silver in the 3000 meter run, and gold while setting a new national record in the 3000 meter steeplechase.

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Making a name

10

Bel Sanchez Elementary

13

The PTX track Club in Pearland has grown into a national power. New school in Sterling Lakes shines as students enter for the first time.

13

Italiano’s Restaurant

17

A Sunday Drive

Family-owned restaurant offers great Italian food and good prices. Crocodile Encounter near Angleton has the largest group of alligators and crocodiles in the world — and you can see them. •Meridiana •Sterling Lakes

17 5


COVER STORY

PTX makes a name for itself nationwide

Santiago Mejia competes in the 9B division 1500 Meter Run. At the time of its founding, PTX was only the second AAU track club in the greater Houston area. Right, in a performance that went viral nationally, Nolen Richie of Shadow Creek runs a blistering 49.35 seconds split during the anchor leg of the 14B division 4 x 400 Meter Relay.

D

uring the week of July 27 through Aug. 3, some of the best youth athletes in the world gathered in Greensboro, N.C. to compete in the 2019 American Athletic Union’s Junior Olympic Games. In this year’s games, there was a distinct local presence as 45 area athletes from Pearland Track Xpress competed on this grand stage. Founded in 2010 by Edmond Ewing and Elbert Sharp, PTX has grown from its initial group of 33 athletes to nearly 110 in 2019. “There was a need for a local

6

Story and photos by Prentice C. James

AAU track team in the Pearland area as there was only one AAU team in Houston,” said Ewing. “We saw the need and put the plan in motion to get something started for the community.” Indeed, getting something started is exactly what happened with PTX. In its first year of existence, PTX qualified 18 of its club members for Junior Olympic Games and nearly tripled that number in 2019. When asked about the success of this team, Ewing responded, “PTX is a wellrounded team. We don’t focus

•Meridiana •Sterling Lakes


Stacie Harris soars during the 12G division 80 Meter Hurdles competition. Below, in the 12G Shot Put 6 lbs., Diane Carroll prepares to launch the implement. primarily on one event. We had athletes compete in every event this year at Junior Olympics except for the open javelin and open pole vault, though we had an athlete compete in those events in the decathlon.” This philosophy, being well-rounded, yielded dividends for PTX at the 2019 AAU Junior Olympic Games. Many athletes improved their times and set personal records, leading to a haul of 35 medals and many exciting storylines. One such story is that of Noah Haileab. The rangy 15-16B division athlete has come out of nowhere to become a household name on the youth track circuit. Haileab won gold, silver and fourth place medals in his events this year at the Junior Olympic Games. He also set a national record for his age group in the 3000 meter steeplechase. Reflecting on the successes at the Junior Olympic Games and what drives PTX’s leadership, Ewing said, “It’s the joy of seeing young athletes succeed on

and off the track. For example, seeing an athlete come out and can barely run one warmup lap without stopping then fast forward a year and that same athlete is a Junior Olympic champion in the 1500 meters. That’s an awesome feeling.” Approaching its 10-year anniversary, PTX is not planning to rest on its laurels. Boasting a roster which includes several Alvin ISD coaches and athletes, PTX seems primed for the future. Regarding the path forward, Ewing said, “We are looking to continually grow PTX’s presence in the community and on the national scene. PTX will get involved in more community initiatives so we can give back to the community that has allowed us to train and produce such great athletes.” Based on this season’s performances, PTX seems on-pace to accomplish its goals. Whether it’s a viral video from multiple medal winner and rising Shadow Creek freshman Nolen Ritchie, the grit of Massey Ranch Elementary athlete •Meridiana •Sterling Lakes

Sofia McPherson or a pit-churning landing from silver medalist Kevin Jackson II of Pomona Elementary, Pearland Track Xpress is making its presence felt throughout the Houston area and nationally.

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Pomona Elementary School’s Kevin Jackson II lands in the pit during the 10B Long Jump. Right, Massey Ranch’s Sofia McPherson competes in the 10G division 4 x 400 Meter Relay.

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Shadow Creek’s Mitchell Craney II prepares to throw the discus in the 14B Discus competition. Right, in search of ways to recover, PTX athletes take ice baths in the basement of the hotel. Coaches Angel Boyd-Thomas of McNair Junior High and Tyrone McPherson of Rodeo Palms Junior High discus, sprint and relay programs.

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Jeremy Gaitan throws in the 10B Javelin Throw Turbo (400g). Below, from left, Coach Zedric Thomas, Coach Elbert Sharp, Noah Haileab and Coach Edmond Ewing.

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BEL SANCHEZ ELEMENTARY

Navigators kick off

Students listen to the rules of PE class during the first week of school at the new Bel Sanchez Elementary.

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hen school opened last month, students in the fast-growing area of Sterling Lakes in Iowa Colony got a special treat — their own school. Bel Nafegar Sanchez Elementary opened its doors to pre-K through fifth-grade students, with close to 800 students walking through the doors on opening day. There to meet them was Sanchez, Principal Rosemary Reed and dozens of excited teachers. As the day came to a close, Reed said it was nearly perfect. The one problem — it took too long to get all the students picked up from the car line. But even one problem was too much so Reed and her staff stayed late to fix the problem. “We hammered it out,” she said. Reed said they met for an hour to find solutions to the lengthy pickup lines. “The parents see that and

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Story and photos by David Rupkalvis

they know we’re trying,” Reed said. “We’ve already made adjustments and we are working it out.” Reed said fixing problems quickly is key, especially in a new school. She said her goal is to show parents she and Sanchez Elementary can be trusted. “I’m not going to ask them to trust me,” she said. “I’m going to earn their trust.” Reed was named principal of Sanchez Elementary near the end of last school year and spent months trying to put together the perfect staff for the incoming students. She proudly admits she poached some of the best teachers, not just from Alvin ISD, but other districts in the area. Being named principal early was beneficial, she said, because she didn’t just have to interview prospective teachers. Instead, she had time to watch them in the classroom.

Fifth graders get to know each other during the first week of school.

•Meridiana •Sterling Lakes


Laura Salinas talks to her students at Bel Sanchez Elementary.

One of the key decisions she had to make was a mascot and a theme for the school. To find those, she turned to the school’s namesake — Bel Nafegar Sanchez. Reed learned Nafegar meant navigator, so the school became the navigators and took on a transportation theme. “How do we navigate”? Reed asked. “That’s why we have a transportation theme. We all come from different places, and we all have different ways to navigate, but we’re all navigating to success.” While the design on Sanchez Elementary was already ap-

proved before Reed was hired, she did have a lot of say in the final product. The murals on the walls are one of her favorites, with each depicting navigation themes and all tying back to Sanchez. “I love the design of this building,” she said. “It’s beautiful. I can get to any classroom in a few minutes.” The two-story building is designed with the younger students — pre-K, kindergarten and first grade — downstairs and the older students upstairs. It has a lot of flex spaces big enough for entire classes to use for special lessons. Reed said the flex

Creative flex spaces is an important design element of Bel Sanchez Elementary.

•Meridiana •Sterling Lakes

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spaces are key and her goal is to get teachers out of the classroom, using every inch of the building to teach students. While walking through Sanchez Elementary, there was a spirit of enthusiasm tied to the newness. Fifth-grade science teacher Rachael Klima, who moved to Sanchez from Meridiana Elementary, said she was thrilled to be in the new school with her students. “It’s beautiful,” she said. “I’m glad I got to come with the kids.” Fourth-grade teacher Holly Heble was also excited about opening the school. “Oh, I love it,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun.” Sanchez Elementary School will host a formal dedication at 2 p.m. Oct. 6. The community is welcome to attend and tour the facility.

New murals can be seen around the school at Bel Sanchez Elementary.

Local Flavor

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hen you own six shrimp boats right here on the Gulf Coast, the next logical step would be to open your own seafood restaurant. This is how Em’s Seafood Kitchen came to be. Nancy Duong and her family opened the restaurant in February of this year and named the business in honor of her grandmother “Em.” Em’s Seafood Kitchen is already known for their unique Viet-Cajun crawfish with their signature Vietnamese twist. Besides fresh shrimp, Em’s boasts delicious fish, Blue Crab, Boudin balls, gumbo, oysters, calamari and wonderful handmade eggs rolls. A local flavor favorite is the variety of crab dishes featuring salted Cajun crab and Tamarind Crab. They also serve chicken dishes, hot wings and crisp cold salads. Of course you’ll want all the fixins along with these wonderful dishes so they offer sweet potato fries and hush puppies on the menu as well. Nancy explained that the staff is courteous and keep the restaurant in ship shape for your dining pleasure.

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•Meridiana •Sterling Lakes


ITALIANO’S RESTAURANT

Delicious food at a better price

The Sadiku family — Al, Ariana, Susie and Benny — have turned their love of food into Italiano’s.

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n the middle of Pearland, surrounded by many restaurants, lies a gem that offers amazing food at an even better price — Italiano’s Restaurant. A true family restaurant, Italiano’s is owned by Al and Susie Sadiku, who are in Pearland almost every day. And their son and nephew help with the day to day operations. Someone from the family is there all the time because that’s the way they want it. Located on Broadway Street next to Shadow Creek High School, Italiano’s offers food made from recipes passed down through the family. Susie’s grandfather began the family legacy, opening a pizzeria in Brooklyn in 1967. When he moved his family to Houston in 1980, he contin-

Story by David Rupkalvis

ued the restaurant work. “My father always made sure we worked in the family business, making sure we learned the recipes,” Susie said. The Sadikus started their first restaurant in Humble more than two decades ago, serving the same Italian food now loved in Pearland. At the urging of family in Pearland, they added the Broadway location a couple of years ago. A third restaurant is open in Atascocita, and they are considering expanding again to Kingwood. But even as the business grows, three things have never changed. No. 1, family leads the way. Benny Sadiku graduated from The Conrad Hilton Hotel and Restaurant School at the University of Houston and now runs the

Pearland store. No. 2, the food is prepared the way Susie cooked it at home. No. 3, it will always be affordable. And despite the low cost — calzones for $7, lasagna for $7.30 and amazing pizza starting at $12 for an extra large — quality will never go out the window. Just walk into Italiano’s and you will know that immediately. As you open the door, you are greeted with the aroma of garlic, olive oil and steaming tomatoes from their homemade marinara and tomato sauce lovingly made with the freshest of vegetables. Once you take a bite of their complimentary homemade garlic rolls, your taste buds will come alive and you’ll know you are in for a wonderful meal. •Meridiana •Sterling Lakes

And you definitely are. No matter what the choice, if you enjoy Italian food and you don’t want to break the bank, Italiano’s is a must stop. And the service is top notch no matter the time of day. Servers are prompt, professional, helpful and courteous. Find out for yourself; visit Italiano’s at 11710 Broadway between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. weekends. Editor’s Note: My family and I have eaten at Italiano’s half a dozen times over the last few months. I’m fairly traditional, so I stick with what I love — the calzones. My wife, who is Italian by birth and an excellent cook herself, is much more adventurous. She loves the chicken cacciatorre and thinks the pizza is the best she’s had.

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•Meridiana •Sterling Lakes


FIRST STATE BANK

Serving Brazoria County since 1958

First State Bank has earned a reputation of service across Brazoria County.

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re you looking for a bank with authentic ties to Brazoria County that can meet all the expectations of any customer? Do you like to be greeted by name? Do you like keeping your money close to home? If you answered yes to any of those, First State Bank is the bank for you. First State Bank has been a mainstay in Brazoria County since 1958 when the first branch opened in Clute. The bank later expanded to Lake Jackson in 1997 and Manvel in 2004. Robert Perryman has been with First State Bank since 1985 and became its third president in 2005. He said First State Bank has always tried to keep its mindset toward assisting residents of Brazoria County. While the bank can do all the traditional work — checking and savings accounts, car loans, home loans and some

Story and photos by David Rupkalvis

investments, Perryman said it has one area where it stands out. “We started doing a lot of consumer business,” he said. “But our strength and what’s unique about us is commercial lending.” And with commercial lending, the bank excels. Perryman said it routinely loans out money to small businesses in Brazoria County for things like equipment, property and many other needs. Another specialty is SBA loans. “Not many banks do a lot of those, but we do,” Perryman said. “As far as our area, we are one of the fastest growing banks for loans granted. Commercial business is probably two-thirds of what we do.” Perryman said First State Bank likes loaning money to businesses in Brazoria County because the bank is in Brazo-

ria County. The board is made up of local residents, many of them business owners. The employees almost all live and work in Brazoria County, and when the bank invests, it tries to invest locally. The bank invests cautiously in things like government bonds with an emphasis on cities, school districts and other government entities in Brazoria County. “We’re not interested in investing outside of this area,” he said. “We invest locally. We have a responsibility in the community to buy locally.” Because of the effort to keep its money locally and loan money locally, First State Bank really is the hometown bank for those who live in the area. “We have a good knowledge of businesses in our area; we have a good knowledge of communities and government •Meridiana •Sterling Lakes

officials,” Perryman said. “But our biggest advantage is we care about our customers. We know them by name. If they need to call me on the weekend, they can get me.” And Perryman said that personal banking attitude can be seen at every branch. “We all take ownership,” he said. “It’s not about coming in for our salary, it’s about taking care of our customers. I try to know as many as I can, and I try to make them feel special.” If you are ready to feel special, the Manvel branch is located at 19323 Highway 6 and lobby hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday with extended drive through hours including 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. First State Bank is FDIC insured and an Equal Housing Lender.

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•Meridiana •Sterling Lakes

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A SUNDAY DRIVE

Crocodile Encounter

A variety of crocodiles and alligators, including this Siamese crocodile, can be seen close up at Crocodile Encounter.

H

idden away on a 14-acre parcel less than a half hour from Meridiana and Sterling Lakes is the largest collection of crocodiles in the United States. It’s true, and many of them are available to be seen almost any day. Add in 50 alligators, an-

Story and photos by David Rupkalvis

telopes, lemurs, hogs and a variety of turtles and tortoises, and you have Crocodile Encounter. Located on the edge of Angleton, Crocodile Encounter puts visitors of all ages up close and personal with some of nature’s largest predators. Whether it’s feeding young American alligators and

200-pound tortoises yourself or watching trained guides feed a variety of crocodiles, Crocodile Encounter is a chance to experience some of nature’s most amazing creatures up close. During a visit, guests are welcome to join a guided tour or wander through on their own. I recommend the guided •Meridiana •Sterling Lakes

tour for a couple of reasons. No. 1, the guides have a lot of information and share it freely. No. 2, the guides know how to get the biggest creatures — adult alligators and crocodiles — to eat. Watching a 12-foot-long reptile that weighs more than 1,000 pounds devour its food is pretty cool, to say the least.

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Once inside, visitors go on a journey that is highlighted by some of the largest reptiles in the world. The American alligator is the only crocodilian native to Texas and is one of the first animals on the tour. American alligators can reach 14 feet in length, and the largest at Crocodile Encounter is close to 13. The guides will feed the larger alligators chicken as you watch, and the younger ones enjoy being fed by the visitors themselves. Several varieties of tortoises and turtles are also on display and can be fed by guests. The African spurred tortoise is likely the favorite because guests can get into the enclosure and touch and feed the reptiles. The crocodiles are a different story. While alligators and crocodiles look very similar, one big difference you learn about is how they interact with people. In the wild, alligators tend to run when they encounter people. Unless

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While visiting Crocodile Encounter, guests get to feed tortoises and see rare animals like this Nile crocodile.

•Meridiana •Sterling Lakes


Dozens of alligators, including some being fed, can be seen close up while touring Crocodile Encounter. an alligator has babies, they will run away. In Texas, one person is killed by alligators every 50 years. Crocodiles, on the other hand, are much more aggressive. In Africa, there are several hundred crocodile attacks each year, and about a third are fatal. So, when the tour moves to the crocodiles, the only human interaction is with the tour guides. Just to be safe, the guides are always watching to make sure no hands, feet or other body parts are in the enclosures. At Crocodile Encounter, there has never been an injury to a guest, and the staff members have been bitten one time. If you stay on the path and out of the enclosures, there is no way to get bit. In addition to the reptiles it is best known for, Crocodile Encounter has some other surprises on the tour. A family of kangaroos calls the facility home, and several species of antelope, wild

hogs and even ring-tailed lemurs are on display. But Crocodile Encounter is known for its crocodiles, especially its Nile crocs. Dozens of the reptiles can be seen any day while visiting, but behind closed doors are the signs of its real success. Up to 100 baby crocodiles are being raised at the facility. They range in age from hatchlings to 2 or 3 years old before they are put on display. While the mating of the Nile crocodiles is being slowed, Crocodile Encounter is trying to mate its Siamese crocodiles, which are nearly extinct in the wild. Entry into Crocodile Encounter costs $13.50 for adults and $9.50 for children. It is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sundays. Guided tours begin at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. daily. Crocodile Encounter is located at 23231 County Road 48 in Angleton. •Meridiana •Sterling Lakes

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•Meridiana •Sterling Lakes

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