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288 Express

Living in Alvin, Manvel and beyond

Break Point A look inside Alvin ISD’s tennis programs Page 6

A publication of

October 2019 Volume 2, Issue 10


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288 Express Juanita’s Taqueria Page 15

Inside Cover Photo Tennis may not get the attention other sports do, but Alvin ISD students put in the work to succeed.

6 12 15

Cover Story Senior Stars Breakfast Treat

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Homecoming Oktoberfest


Cover Story

Tennis is on the rise

Shadow Creek’s Reine Antonio charges the net. Below, Ari’Anna Cole of Alvin hits a forehand shot against Clear Springs. The Yellowjackets compete in District 24-6A.


here is much to be said for the friendships, camaraderie and school spirit that come with competing on a high school tennis team. The tennis programs within Alvin ISD are gaining notoriety as fans begin to discover the great talent that exists on the court. Although the tennis teams are somewhat eclipsed by other sports such as football or softball when it comes to popularity, these programs are not left in the shadows when it comes to on and off court performances. Tennis coaches and players


understand that it takes maximum effort and creativity to excel, while at the same time promoting their programs to help grow the sport. Tennis is both emotionally and physically taxing. Progress within the sport often includes time away from the court for strength training in the weight room and endurance training on the track. Many of the athletes are also enrolled in advanced classes and compete in high-level academic competitions. The goals that the players set for themselves are intended for athletic and academic

Story and photos by Prentice C. James

Manvel’s Cole Phillips launches a volley during a District 24-5A match. Below left, Alvin’s Jordan Weber shows the dedication and focus it takes to be successful on the tennis court. Below right, Alertness at the net is key to effective play during doubles. achievements. Scheduling and managing all of this can be hectic, thus adding to the roles of the coaches in the nurturing of well-rounded student athletes.

While tennis may not be a sport that performs on the grandest of stages, it is definitely on the rise, thus cultivating participation and growing interest within the community.


Success on the tennis court means that players must juggle classroom and practice time. Matches often start while school is still in-session and travel can be grueling. Below, Alvin alumna and head coach Breigh Rodriguez prepares her team during a recent match. Rodriguez is in her third-year as head coach and stresses “every point matters� on the tennis court.

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Shadow Creek’s Savindu Wimalasooriya smashes a serve during a game against Manvel. Top right, Manvel’s head coach Jason Smith, also an Alvin graduate, looks to continue making progress with his tennis program.

Restyle. Refresh. Renew You.

Shadow Creek’s head coach Brett Bernstein leads a Sharks tennis program that captured the District 24-5A fall championship.



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Top, Sydney Fairbanks of Manvel illustrates the importance of quick reflexes as she returns a volley. Bottom, work in the weight room and on the track often equates to better performance on the court. Building a well-rounded tennis program means focusing on the total athlete. 10

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Senior stars

Honoring seniors

Longtime ActionS employee Betty Smith (center) was brought to tears as the organization’s executive director, Breah Knape, announced the naming of the Betty Smith Senior Citizen of the Year Award in honor of her 30 years of service for the senior citizens of Brazoria County. Among Smith’s family in attendance with her were her daughter, Pattie Smith-NcNeese (left) and son, Dave Smith.


ctionS’ 2nd annual Grandparents’ Ball proved to be a successful venture to support the agency’s ongoing work of providing transportation and home-delivered meals to the senior citizens of Brazoria County. This year ushered in the first-ever Senior Citizen of the Year Award as part of the event. ActionS Executive Director Breah Knape announced the two winners, explaining that the board “absolutely could not choose between” the top two nominees — George Easterling of Angleton and Alvin Volunteer Firefighter Richard Pittman. In addition to the two recipients, ActionS also honored Betty Smith for her 30 years


of tireless work for ActionS, presenting her with a plaque and naming the Senior Citizen of the Year Award after her. Knape said the award is for those who show the selfless commitment, “creativity, patience and finesse of a natural leader” that Smith showed during all her years working away from the spotlight. “We hope that this is her legacy,” Knape said. Pittman was nominated for the award by his coworker Melissa Hinga, who wrote that he and his wife, Clemencia, have treated her like family since she arrived at Rice Tec as a young woman fresh out of college in 1990 and his 25 years of service as an Alvin volunteer firefighter stood as

a “testament to his volunteer spirit” for the people of Alvin and Brazoria County. “I was surprised, for sure. I’m not a senior citizen,” the 63-year-old Pittman said of receiving his award. The other recipient of the award was George Easterling of Angleton, who has been a regular volunteer at local hospitals and the Brazoria County Historical Museum for the last 20 years and a citizen patrolman for the Angleton Police Department for 15 years. He served as a deacon at West End Baptist Church in Freeport, the First Baptist Church in Brazoria and the First Baptist Church in Angleton and has donated blood every six weeks for years for a total of 139 dona-

Story and photos by Joshua Truksa tions, or 17 gallons of blood (the average adult male has just over 1 gallon of blood). “George’s resume of volunteerism is vast. His desire to help others is built in his DNA. George is a giver. He touches people’s lives with a smile and a story,” Knape said. Knape teared up as she recounted a personal memory she had of Easterling when her grandfather moved to Country Village Care in Angleton, where Easterling has lived for years without letting it slow him down. “Mr. Easterling doesn’t know this but when my grandfather was moved to Country Village before Christmas, Mr. Easterling came breezing by the door and just

popped in to say hello and make sure that we were okay and that we were comfortable and had everything that we need,” Knape said. The night continued with dinner, dancing and candy provided by Alvin Sunrise Rotary, cotton candy handed out by Brazoria County Precinct 2 Constable Willie Howell and celebrity waiters such as Alvin City Councilman Joel Castro and Manvel City Councilman Dan Davis buzzing around tables. Brazoria County Sheriff’s candidate Randy Rhyne said attendance was double that of last year when he served as a celebrity waiter. He said he is happy to help ActionS since he first discovered the organization at least 10 years ago, giving the example of how helpful they were during Hurricane Harvey in assisting the sheriff’s office in evacuating senior citizens. “It’s just been a big blessing — the ActionS group. More people need to know what ActionS does,” Rhyne said.

Alvin Volunteer Firefighter Richard Pittman (right) was one of two recipients of the Betty Smith Senior Citizen Award in its first year of existence. Pittman was nominated by a longtime coworker at Rice Tec and was surprised because at 63, he did not consider himself a senior citizen. Also pictured is ActionS Executive Director Breah Knape.

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A breakfast treat

Juanita’s Taqueria

At Juanita’s Taqueria, guests wait in line every morning for some authentic, made-from-scratch Mexican treats.


ith a nice, cozy atmosphere, this neighborhood taqueria has been in business for over 20 years. And despite service and food that deserves to be famous, Juanita’s has for many Alvinites remained a secret, tucked away on Third Street between Sidnor Street and a laundromat. The business was started in 1999 by Juanita Gonzalez, who learned to cook while working for various restaurants, and later added flavors from her home state of Guanajuato. Gonzalez’ now grown daughter, Alejandra “Alex”

Turpin, said she remembers helping her mother run the restaurant when she was a young child. Turpin said employees arrive at 5 a.m. in the morning every day to begin making tortillas for the 6 a.m. opening. Juanita’s prides itself on its breakfast. From huevos rancheros to migas, chilaquiles and breakfast tacos, there’s no shortage of hearty choices for starting the day, and Turpin said mornings are when lines form at the restaurant. “I feel honored that people actually want to wait to dine with us,” Turpin said.

Authenticity is king at Juanita’s. Nothing is purchased pre-made, with cooks working hard to make the best food from scratch. Turpin said it makes her very proud when older Mexican ladies tell her that the restaurant’s food tastes like their own home cooking. “That’s a good sign. I’ll have grandmas that come in here and they’re like, ‘I just want to eat my potato and egg taco because I don’t want to make it, I don’t want to dirty a dish at home when I could just come and eat it here, and it’s better than what I cook,’ so that’s amazing to hear,”

Story and photos by Joshua Truksa Turpin said. Andrew Thomas, who has been a returning customer at Juanita’s for four years and made sure to come for his breakfast of huevos rancheros on his 34th birthday Aug. 13, said Juanita’s reminds him of the home-cooked food he enjoys when he and his wife visit her mother in New Mexico. His wife and mother-in-law are both named Juanita, and his mother-in-law is from the state of Guanajuato in Mexico like Gonzalez. “It’s like being at my mother-in-law’s house and eating breakfast in her little kitchen, so that’s what I love about it.”




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Oktoberfest in Alvin

Up to 1,000 people enjoyed a German meal during Oktoberfest at Alvin Lutheran Church.


lvinites and people from surrounding areas turned out in droves for the 13th annual Oktoberfest hosted by the Alvin Lutheran Church, with over 300 tickets sold for plates of German food made with recipes used since the event first began. For $12, attendees were treated to pork loin, sausage, German potato salad, sauerkraut and red cabbage.

Story and photos by Joshua Truksa

Bill Pollio, who has been a member of the church for years, said the event originally began as a way to help pay for the church’s current building that was constructed in 2000. For the past several years, all proceeds have gone to various local charities. The event has grown since its debut in 2007 and has become the place to be on the first Saturday of October.

Lisa Belletto, who was in charge of ticket sales, said 295 tickets were presold this year, and the church had a goal of serving meals to at least 1,000 people. “Probably one of the best parts is all the community support because every year through the doors you see very familiar faces, and they come back and support us year after year after year,” Belletto said.

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