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Sat, Dec. 28th, 2013, 10:17 am
2013 In Review

It has been a fun tradition for me to write a year in review the last couple of years. It started off as a nerdy hobby back in 2003 when I started my livejournal account (yes, I still use it). If you’re ever curious my blog goes back 10+ years at carlosblogs.com

Unlike most years this year has brought a lot of changes. After 10 years of thinking about it I applied to law school. Sofia and I were engaged. We moved to Connecticut after living in California our whole lives and we both started new jobs. All in all, I am grateful for all that I have and the direction of our lives. I am grateful for everyone that had a role in making 2013 what it was from family to friends to co-workers. I’m looking forward to 2014.

January

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Caption (above): One of the most fun parts of the year was being President of the SF tri club this year. Sadly, I had to resign in August but January-August were a blast for me. I was happy to work with a great board, officers and members.

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Caption (above): The tutu was out in full force this year. We supported our friends at Escape from Alcatraz.

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Caption (above): I was happy to have joined some great bike rides this year with friends.

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Caption (above): Thanks to Jared and Sofia I learned to play golf this year. I’m still terrible but I’ve had a good time learning. Thanks to living in Walnut Creek we were very close to several courses so I could get in some time on the driving range. I call my swing the Jose Canseco swing.

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Caption (above): Wildflower training weekend is my favorite weekend of the year. Hands down. Hanging out, riding my bike, running, swimming = awesome.

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Caption (above): Wildflower race weekend, as usual, was awesome. While I did not race we were out in full force. Thanks to the hard work of our awesome members the SF tri club got 1st place in the overall club competition.


SF Tri Team

My tour de California outfit. Too hot to wear an actual costume.

Caption (above): I have always wanted to attend a cycling race mountain finish. This year we went to the Tour of California finish on Mount Diablo. We had a great turnout and despite a bit of heat we survived and got to see a great race.

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The lovely newlyweds: Elizabeth and Rahim

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Caption (above): One of the best parts of any year is seeing good friends get married. I met Rahim when I lived in Russian Hill (San Francisco). We lived down the street from each other and we quickly became friends. Thought he left SF he met a wonderful woman who everyone adores. We had a great time in Estes Park, Colorado for their wedding celebration. We wish you the best Rahim and Elizabeth!

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Caption (above): My cousin Nanci also married this year. Anyone who knows Nanci knows she is amazing. From El Salvador to growing up in Los Angeles she excelled, graduated from college, got her masters, PhD and is now teaching at an amazing college. I am so happy for my cousin and Ricardo and wish them both the best in their marriage.


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Caption (above): Without a doubt the most important and best moment of the year is becoming engaged with Sofia. After 5 years of dating we decided to build a future together.

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Caption (above): It has been closer to 10 years since I’ve purchased a new pair of soccer cleats. In my world this is big news because I love soccer and fell in love with the new hypervenom line. I am very happy with how light and responsive they are. When we first moved to Connecticut I couldn’t find my cleats and used an old pair of training cleats and they were terrible. You definitely get what you pay for with nice cleats.



Caption (above): Following our engagement Sofia and I moved to West Hartford, Connecticut. Sofia had an opportunity within her company and we decided it would be a great move for her. While we are both native Californians we made the plunge to New England. We are sad to leave behind so many friends, family and co-workers.

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Caption (above):

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Caption (above): I LOVE Fleet Feet. I was a member in LA, SF and I am now happy to join the West Hartford group.

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Caption (above): We were surprised to find pupusas in a sea of Puerto Rican and Dominicans (whose food is also excellent).

My first Dunkin Donuts experience. V
Caption (above): The clerk almost lost his mind when I told him I had NEVER had Dunkin Donuts before. Dunkin donuts is everywhere here (Starbucks is not).

Taking advantage of all the sunflower fields we have been seeing

Sofia in the sunflower field

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Caption (above): Our first trip in Connecticut. It is beautiful here in the late summer and early fall.


Obligatory group shot by the state sign (our first time in RI)

The Breakers

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Newport: where the 1% are the poor

Caption (above): With my mom making her first visit to Connecticut and the east coast we decided to take her to Newport, Rhode Island.


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Caption (above): We were happy to attend our first wedding in Connecticut! Congratulations to Catherine and Gayle on their marriage!

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Caption (above): We made the trip to Nevada for Sofia’s family reunion. It was a great weekend and I learned a lot about her family and it was great getting to know her relatives.


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Tara and Sofia

The hills are alive...

Pumpkin patch

Caption (above): The fall in New England is stunning. I am so happy we got to experience it first rather than a harsh winter. We are so happy that our friend Tara lives in Connecticut as well.


run around central park

sofia at magnolia bakery bloomingdales

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Caption (above): Sofia and I LOVE New York City. Sadly, it is way too expensive for us. After winning a raffle we were able to stay in NYC for a weekend. It was a great time. As a bonus I got to run around the perimeter of Central Park; something I have wanted to do for years.


Sofia as Cousin It

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Caption (above): We were fortunate to spend time with Sofia’s cousin in New Hampshire for Thanksgiving.



Portland Head lighthouse in Maine. 28 degrees out.

Welcome to New Hampshire!

Welcome to Maine!

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First time having Maine lobster in Maine. Heaven

Caption (above): On the same trip to New Hampshire we visited Maine where our good friends Joe and Margaret also live. We were also able to cross another items of our bucket list: eat Maine lobster in Maine!

West Hartford- Carlos in snow

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Caption (above): For our first snow in Connecticut (December 2013) we had to take pictures to commemorate the event. I went on a run and Sofia and I went on a walk together.

2013 Christmas Tree
Caption (above): Our first Christmas tree in Connecticut! People here love holiday decorating so Sofia will feel right at home.

Mon, Dec. 31st, 2012, 12:52 pm
2012 in pictures

Since 2003 I have been keeping a picture diary of sorts. I do it mostly to remember the good times and great people in my life. This is my picture recap of 2012. I am fortunate to have so many great people in my life and I had a blast looking at pictures from this year for this recap.

If you’re curious that blog is at www.carlosblogs.com

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In what is now officially a tradition we went to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City for the 2nd time in 2012. We are looking forward to the 2013 trip.

Sundance Marquee

At the HP tent

Sofia's first snowfall caught on camera.

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I definitely feel like I’m getting older and my friends are starting to have kids. I don’t say that in a negative way. I’m quite happy seeing my good friends go on with the next step in their lives and establishing their families. In February my good friend Brenda was married and I went out to Florida for her wedding. I am very happy for her and Larry.

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An educator who meant a great deal to me passed away this year. Mr. DonLucas was my Latin American studies teacher and Varsity soccer coach at Fairfax high school.

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I wish it weren’t true that Mr. Donlucas had passed but he leaves a legacy of caring, empowerment and love. He is respected by thousands of students who walked through his doors and one can only hope to be as loved as he was.

Gracias por todo, professor. Que en paz descanse.

Words I wrote about him: http://calmenda.livejournal.com/218133.html

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38 degrees when race started

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A big congrats to Danny for completing his first marathon. While I vowed never ever to do another marathon I wanted to tag along for Danny’s first marathon. Danny’s work ethic was impressive as he logged mile after mile training for Napa. Congrats Danny! I think he has the running bug now (and may have given it to Claudine).


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Some punk-***-b***** stole my Orbea Orca from my garage in SF this year. Believe it or not I wasn’t that upset about it. Definitely been working on not losing my temper. Thankfully a lot of people helped me out and I was able to replace it.

Orbea Orca with Ksyrium ES wheelset

I replaced it with a Matte Black Orbea Orca.

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Sofia’s dad was a great help in my cycling this year. Sofia’s dad helped me through my first century ride (Marin Century) and was with me for my first Solvang Century ride.

At the finish in Solvang with Mr. Hendrix


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I had a great year with the SF Tri club. After 2 years of being a member I joined the board of directors. I was pysched to get new uniforms courtesy of Terry L.

Failure was a great motivator for me. I tried to climb Mt Hamilton 2-3 times before I finally achieved it later in the year. The first 3 times were too hot and I wasn’t in enough shape to pull it off.

GGTC'er joins us for the ride.  Picture courtest of Tona.


Our new uniforms. Thanks Terry!  They look great.

Reaction in a car: awesome. Reaction on a bicycle: f********ck.



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View from the Walnut Creek BART station

Walnut Creek Panorama Mout Diablo Valley

In April 2012 Sofia and I moved in together to Walnut Creek, California.

After 6+ years of living in SF, Sofia and I moved to Walnut Creek, California.

The most common question I get is: why?

So far, I really like Walnut Creek.

Some reasons:

1) Warm weather. Walnut Creek seems to be 10-15 degrees warmer than SF. Being from Los Angeles this feels more like home.
2) Proximity to BART. Since we are right across the street from BART it’s a 40-45 minute BART ride into San Francisco where both of our offices are off BART stations.
3) Cheaper rent. Our combined rent in SF was $2,200+. In Walnut Creek for $1,600 we can get a relatively new apartment with parking, pool, gym etc whereas in SF you live in an old, small place with no parking or amenities.
4) Walnut Creek has tons of open space and access to great cycling.
5) Suburban people. So far everyone has been really nice. Crime seems nonexistent around here and at the risk of sounding like a snob I like the idea of being in a place where I don’t have to worry about those things like I do in larger cities.

Am I deluding myself into thinking Walnut Creek is better than SF? No. I LOVE the city. Since I am in SF Monday - Friday for work I feel I get the best of both worlds.


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I am proud to be a part of a new program that SFUSD is funding.

Young Dancers was created to capture the spirit of the film "Mad Hot Ballroom" a film documenting the joy of young students participating in New York City's ballroom dance competition. Started in 2011 by San Francisco School Board of Education President Norman Yee, the program began with 4 schools and
was created to provide access to quality dance instruction to public school children. In 2012 Young Dancers provided programming to 12 SFUSD schools. Over 12 weeks program students learned tango, salsa, merengue, waltz and swing. The final was held at Lincoln High School and over 400 parents and students were in attendance for the dance competition showcase and finals.

Below are some videos from the semifinals that will give you an idea of how excited the kids are to be a part of this program:



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54dNBKgYoo8



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Amongst other firsts were a focus on climbing. This year I was able to climb Mt Diablo, Hamilton and Tamalpais in one year. I had a great time doing this solo and with good friends. Some of my attempts succeeded and some were utter failures but I had fun nonetheless.


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poker


A great new addition to my life is playing poker. I recently learned to play and have enjoyed playing with the guys.


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Many moons ago I was working for the Marin Education fund and was a mentor a great young student by the name of Miguel.

This year he graduated from the College of Marin. I am very proud to see how far he has come since I first met him through hard work and dedication.


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When we weren't doing the swim clinic... pool games were played

One advantage of living in the burbs where it is 100+ degrees in the summer is having pool parties with friends. This weekend we had a bike ride + carne asada bbq and pool party thanks to Sofia and my mom who helped with the cooking.



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I have a thing with taking pictures with signs. Pics or it didn't happen?

From the east peak of Mt Tam at 3,089 feet

I got in a climb up Mt Tamalpais this year. Definitely the most pretty of the 3 major peaks in SF.




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At the finish line. First tri since 2002. Wooohoo!

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After 4 knee surgeries and a close to 10 year hiatus I completed my first triathlon since 2002 this year. I entered in the Silicon Valley Sprint triathlon as a warm up for my Vineman 70.3 Ironman. My swim was TERRIBLE. No exaggeration there but it forced me to get in the pool and train hard for Vineman.


Getting ready for the 1.2 mile swim @ Johnson's beach

I faced my fear of the water big time this year. The tri club went up to a Vineman training weekend and swimming the actual swim course helped settle my nerves a bit even though my swim was terrible.


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I completed my first half ironman 70.3 in 2012.

No exaggeration when I tell you I didn’t think I’d be able to complete the swim. Thanks to a few failures and terrible swims I got my butt in gear and was able to complete Vineman.

Race report here: http://calmenda.livejournal.com/219398.html


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I had a great time in Los Angeles this year visiting my mother and brother.

Mom and I on tandem biking through Santa Monica and Venice. Had to Strava it. Habit.

My brother Steve

Mom and I on our super cheap tandem.


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Also had a great time outdoors with good friends in non-triathlon related activities in 2012.

At Point Reyes national seashore

At Point Reyes



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While the season was quite disappointing I was able to attend several Cal games this year and enjoyed the tailgates Jared took me to. I look forward to many more season of Cal football no matter how much they suck (or don’t suck hopefully).

The new stadium looks great. Beatiful day for a game


Bacon, waffles and fried chicken. Tailgate heaven

Friends at the game - we are going to have to talk to christina about getting some blue and gold



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While the picture is blurry (thank you Colma fog) Sofia and I got our first car. Woohoo! We got a 2013 Volgswagen Jetta.



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Con los muchachos de San Rafael high. Como que nos hubieramos puesto de acuerdo con las camisas moradas. Foto por: Edgardo Martinez

A big congratulations to Edilzar (former student at San Rafael High) who was married this year. I wish him a long and happy marriage. It was great to see him and some former SR students who I enjoy keeping touch with.


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Despite vowing never to do it again I did my 2nd Tough Mudder in Tahoe this year with the Snuggle Bunnies. As usual it was an AWESOME time.

Team shot. Couldn't have asked for a better team. Great group of guys.

Post race beers. Best Dos Equis I have ever had. What's more manly than beer and pink shirts while wearing spandex?

Who doesn't like free beer after a race?

Race report here: http://calmenda.livejournal.com/220323.html





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Sonoma County is SO beautiful

Levi’s Gran Fondo kicked my ass again. I missed the cut off by about 20 minutes. 2nd time I failed at this one. I’m not going to give up. I’m going to get it in 2014.

Race report here: http://calmenda.livejournal.com/220517.html



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Congrats to Jared and Vicki and their first home!

Congrats to Jared and Vicki on their first home!


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Obligatory photo at the top of Mt Hamilton.

Fun with the fisheye mirror @ the top of Mt Hamilton

After failed attempts over the summer finally climbed the tallest peak in the bay area (Mt Hamilton).


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My climbing efforts were rewarded with a water bottle for people who climbed the 3 peaks in one year. Woohooo! The things I do for free gear.

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The leaves were beautiful on the way up to Mount Hamilton

At the top of Mt. Hamilton - James Lick observatory


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Heading to Cal game in new shorts and shirt from back in the day.

I may have gone a little overboard in my Cal v StanfUrd outfit.


Surpringly got a lot of laughs from Stanfurd fans on the shirt.



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The bride and groom

Two of my best friend Jennifer Kremen and Piotr Prokop were married this weekend.

I met both in 1999 and were some of my first friends at UC Berkeley. I am so happy for them and wish them all the best. They are both like a brother and sister to me and look forward to being a part of their lives in the years to come.


I need to tone it down. In what I think it was one of the funniest pictures of me there is me trying to catch the garter at Jenn and Piotr’s wedding:

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Whoa.

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Sofia and I



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We had a great time with Sofia’s parents this year. We were lucky enough to join them up in Tahoe for their wedding 30+ year anniversary (sorry, forgot the exact # of years).

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I think 35+ is a record for us and we had 15+ missing

Love my family and we had a great 35+ person Thanksgiving dinner in beautiful Los Angeles weather.

I was happy to see my cousin Fredy and uncle Tito who I haven’t seen in years. Love you guys and hopefully I can make it out to Dallas in 2013.

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Guys photo (not a lot of us)



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I am proud of the SF tri club for celebrating its 10 year anniversary. The club is such a big part of my life and I am thankful for all the awesome people I have met through the club and how it has supported me.

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Our first niners game. We wanted to experience Candlestick before they move to Santa Clara (boo).

Sofia and I went to our first Niners game.

It was a great time with friends!


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Sofia invited me to run with Malibu half marathon with her and friends. Such a BEAUTIFUL race.

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It was great hanging out with Whitney, Margaret and Joe.



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Can you spot Sofia? Look closely. Try hard.

Ok, this picture may rank up there with my garter catch as funniest picture of the year. Sofia waiting in a line for pan frances with 40+ latinos in Los Angeles. Can you spot her? Can you? :-)




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A big props to our good friend Claudine for completing her first marathon. Claudine put us to shame with her work ethic and speedy legs. Congrats CC!


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This year Sofia and I celebrate 4 years of being together.

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Last but not least I am looking forward to 2013 and spending time with family and friends as we always have. ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

All in all I am thankful for a great year and I consider myself fortunate to have the people I have in my life and those who have passed away who will never be forgotten I and look forward to many more blessed years.

Sun, Apr. 15th, 2012, 03:23 am
R.I.P Fernando Donlucas, profesor querido

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Somewhere along the way I heard the expression that we stand on shoulders of giants. For some these giants are famous historical figures. For others, athletes, politicians etc. Being in education – for me those giants are educators that have helped me throughout my life. I think of those teachers that have a special place in my life like that angel in It’s a Wonderful Life. The Fairfax High School community lost a great teacher, coach, mentor and person this weekend.

I woke up yesterday to learn that my soccer coach and latin American history teacher had passed. His family posted on his Facebook:

“Mr. Donlucas's purpose in this life has come to an end. Fairfax lost a great teacher and God welcomed an excellent human being! On behalf of his family we thank colleagues, students, friends, and everyone who had him in their prayers.
His wishes were for all of you to remember him like the great teacher, uncle, son, brother and friend that he was and to cherish the best memories that you experienced with him. Upon his wishes, there will be no funeral services.”

To say he was simply my teacher would be a disservice to the role he played in my life. You could walk by Mr. DonLucas’ class on any given day to at least a dozen students who * wanted * to be in his classroom hanging out at lunch when they didn't have to. Not too many teachers commanded that sort of respect from latino students.

It’s about 2:47am on a Sunday and I couldn’t really sleep. I kept thinking about the years I spent playing soccer under Donlucas and the several classes I took from him. I dug up my old yearbook and sure enough he wrote in it. He famously told people “your past is not your potential”. Those were words that resonated with me as an 18 year old and words that still ring true as I approach 31. Donlucas was one of the first teachers in high school that ever believed in me. Some teachers believed because they saw promise in a student. Donlucas believed in you the moment you walked in the door; as you were. Therein was his power. Even students who some suspected may one day drop out or didn’t do so well in school gravitated towards him. Today I talked to cousins and my brother about him. We all have fond memories of Mr. Donlucas.

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I wouldn’t be where I am without educators like Mr. Donlucas. No doubt. It was teachers like him that forced me to believe in myself to get good grades and go to college. For some that is something that is a foregone conclusion but it wasn’t something that was a sure thing for me growing up. Donlucas was a pretty radical figure at the time. He forced us to be proud of who we were as latinos through his latin American history classes and he worked hard to get us to be proud of ourselves. Before I looked at my yearbook one I remember sitting next to his desk once and he was telling me I should have respect for myself. I think I had said something stupid to someone in class and sure enough he wrote some in my yearbook about having “el nombre de Almendarez en alto” which again really resonated with me. He was all about having respect for yourself and taking pride in who you are.

It’s strange to cry over someone you last saw over 13 years ago. I am thankful that we had been emailing earlier this year when I heard he was sick and I was able to express my gratitude to him for all he did for me and countless other people who came after me at Fairfax. I think he started teaching at Fairfax in the early 90’s so I was probably in some of the first classes of students he had in 1995. I wouldn’t be the last as two of my cousins and my little brother would also have him as a teacher and he would also leave a great impression on them. As my younger brother said “I think I’ll go read Always Running now”. That cracked me up. I will forever link that book to him. Donlucas taught us that latinos could be writers, teachers and historians; that latinos had a voice and that latinos had a place in U.S. history. He taught me that I could hold on to my identity as a latino and be proud of that yet still pursue “success” (however I defined that). That wasn’t something I knew before I met Mr. Donlucas. I was also thankful for his guidance in talking to me about teaching at Fairfax if I ever wanted to do. It’s still something I think about and hope to one day do and follow in his giant footsteps.

I wish it weren’t true that Mr. Donlucas had passed but he leaves a legacy of caring, empowerment and love. He is respected by thousands of students who walked through his doors and one can only hope to be as loved as he was.

Gracias por todo, professor. Que en paz descanse.

Carlos Almendarez
Fairfax class of 1999