The Life of Humberto Guevara

The Life of Humberto Guevara

Maliik Cooper, Reporter

Feb, 15, 1977, nine days after Humberto Guevara was born, a group of political demonstrators gathered in El Salvador’s capital city to protest fraud in their presidential election. For going against the views of the government, at least 200 protestors and bystanders were brutally shot to death by Salvadoran security officers. Standing president Carlos Humberto Romero was deposed by the military, marking the beginning of a civil war in the Central American country.

Three years later, the situation had only gotten worse. Archbishop Óscar Romero was the leader of the Catholic Church in San Salvador, the country’s capital. A human rights activist and community leader who pleaded for non-violence, Romero was murdered in a drive-by shooting by El Salvador’s military. The last thing Romero did before he died was give a sermon calling for the soldiers, as Catholics, to end the violence. This is a man who was murdered moments after practicing his faith and calling for peace.

It was under these harsh circumstances that Ana Guevara decided to immigrate to New York in the December of 1980, hoping to offer her three-year-old son a better life.

The ‘Big Apple’ proved to be only a pit stop for the young family of two, who left Manhattan after less than a year in the city. Although to others, ages three to four can be insignificant parts of childhood, this was a very important time in the life of a young Humberto Guevara. He experienced three things that’d stay with him for the rest of his life.

For one, he learned how to speak English. Guevara’s first language was Spanish. Because he came to the Americas at such a young age however, he was able to learn the official language of the United States by, of all things, watching Sesame Street. That’s right, Humberto attributes his bilinguality to the little red creature named Elmo.

Second, he developed a lifelong love of the New York Mets. Oscar Guevara, Humberto’s uncle, was already living in New York at the time his nephew arrived. As an employee of “Citi”, a company who at the time owned the Mets’ home stadium, Oscar was always able to get tickets for him, his sister Ana, and his nephew Humberto.

“We would always take the train. It was me, my mom, and my uncle. We would always sit at the top, in the nosebleed seats. That’s how I became a Mets fan,” Humberto said.

Third, is the experience of a normal family structure. Two parents, and their child.

According to Guevara, his uncle Oscar was “the closest thing I had to a father.”

Humberto’s real father stayed in El Salvador after he and his mother left. He died without ever having a conversation with his son.

While his uncle’s influence was deeply appreciated, the time came when four-year-old Humberto and his mother once again had to relocate. This time the nomadic family traveled across the country to Burbank, CA.

Humberto doesn’t remember much about his time in California, which he attributes to the frequency with which him and his mother moved. It was once again, less than a year before he and his mother left their new home. What he does remember are things that most children experience at the same age: things like getting toys and injuring yourself.

“I got my first “Big Wheel” in California, and I have a scar on my chin where I took a corner too sharp, fell and busted my chin wide open. My mom used to work at a hospital, so she butterfly stitched it on the spot,” Guevara said.

Had the Guevara’s been in El Salvador, Ana’s talent would have been used to help heal the soldiers causing anarchy back home, but instead it was used to help her son. Not long after this, Humberto and his mother departed from the west coast and finally found a place they could call home.

Gaithersburg, MD, with a population less than 40,000 during the 1980’s, sheltered the Guevara’s.

That’s just how Humberto Guevara likes it. As a self-described introvert, he prefers not to be in areas crowded by large concentrations of people. This is evident in the fact that Gaithersburg is where he and his mom settled down when he was five, and they stayed until he left for college. This is the longest stretch Humberto has ever stayed in one place to this day.

Upon arriving, he and his mother first lived with a cousin for four years. After being asked about his next living situation, Guevara admitted that he didn’t officially live in his own home until 2010. After moving out from their cousin’s residence, it was another apartment living situation.

Humberto doesn’t regret this aspect of his life, however, as he went on a long spiel about the joy he felt playing with his friends in the area during his free time. He named his cousin José Guevara, a friend from Pakistan named Hussein, along with his little brother Ashis, Randy, Paul, and Scotty as his regular squadmates. They built forts in the woods, rode bikes, and even played cricket together. Cricket isn’t a very popular sport in the United States, but in Pakistan, where Hussein is from, cricket is the most popular sport.

“Hussein and Ashis moved one year. When they came back, they brought cricket bats. Man it sure was fun playing baseball with those triangular bats. The ball would just sail if you hit it with those.”

Childhood was much more stable and enjoyable than the life he could’ve been living had his mother not made the decision to move. Children were recruited to fight as young as the age of seven back home. So while Humberto was building forts in the woods with his friends in the comforts of Gaithersburg, there was another child the same age as him being sent to war.

Middle and high school presented a different challenge for young Guevara as he began to establish who he is as a person. As he got older, he became a little less sociable and became much more quiet. This is in part because all of his friends he played with as a child either moved or were older than he was.

“Scott and Randy were older than me and in high school when I was in middle school. Hussein and Ashis moved, so all the kids I was familiar with were either older or moved away by the time I was in middle school.”

The personality change overlapped into his school life, and before long Humberto Guevara was the quiet kid in all his classes. This persona became the norm, as to this day Humberto will tell you that he just isn’t very outgoing.

“I just need my alone time. My wife understands that. Sometimes I’ll just go upstairs and she knows that I just need some time to myself,” Guevara claimed.

And so that’s how the rest of Guevara’s school life went. He recalls his mentality slightly changing his senior year of high school when he was placed in AP classes for the first time.

“I didn’t wanna be the dumb kid in the smart classes. So I became more competitive.”

The summer before his junior year, Guevara took a survey asking questions about what type of college he’d prefer. After visiting the University of Maryland, closest and largest school near Gaithersburg, Humberto knew he didn’t want to be in a school with huge class sizes and a large concentration of people where he was just another number. The results he got after returning to school for his senior year suggested smaller schools in the southeast. Places such as Charleston Southern University, the University of Charleston, and Winthrop University.

“When I visited Charleston Southern in 1994, it was like seven buildings, nothing like it is today. The University of Charleston was just too far off, it was like a 10 hour drive back to Maryland. Winthrop was perfect. Not too big, not too small, I could easily drive back if I needed to.”

While excited about his transition into adulthood, it was only a few months before he made an important decision he now admits was immature. After finishing his first semester at Winthrop, he moved back to Maryland. When  questioned what prompted this decision, he responded “Do you want the real answer?”

The “real answer” was that he was convinced to come home by a woman named Emma Pebenito, who he was dating at the time. Humberto returned home in the December of 1995, in which he and Emma broke up in the February of 1996, only two months later.

It was then that Guevara dropped out of Winthrop University. In an effort to continue his education, Humberto enrolled in Montgomery Community College for a semester, before transferring to the University of Maryland in Baltimore County. He studied psychology from 1996 to 1998 before admitting that he simply “needed a break from school.” So as a 21-year-old, Humberto left school in search of something different to do with his life.

“My mom refused to let me stay at home if I wasn’t working.”

Guevara found work doing lawn maintenance for a golf course from 1998 to 2001. He admits that it was just a stopgap for whatever he decided to do next in his life, and that it was “nothing more than something to do.”

During his tenure working lawn maintenance, the athletic director of his high school called him, asking if he was interested in coaching men’s volleyball at the school. He accepted, and coached the team from 1999 to 2001. This he says is what got him interested in becoming a teacher. Nearly 20 years earlier, this is the moment that began his path toward South Pointe High School.

At Montgomery, Guevara grew into the best coach in the county, winning the ‘Coach of the Year’ award in only his second season coaching the Men’s Volleyball team. The team was also very successful, winning their division twice and making the county championship both times.

Not long after this, in the spring of 2001, Winthrop’s head volleyball coach contacted Guevara asking about his interest in teaching. By a stroke of pure luck, Guevara was able to return to school without starting completely over. There was only about a month before Winthrop’s five year return policy wouldn’t have been an option for Guevara. Thankful for the opportunity, he finished his schooling as a history major in December of 2004, thus ending his 23-year school career at the age of 27.

Guevara got a teaching job immediately after graduating from Monroe Middle School, in which he taught 8th grade history in the spring of 2005. A new recurring theme in his life began here, dealing with weather. Humberto resigned from this job after only one semester because of the area’s cold weather and moved to Palm Beach County, Florida. He then worked as the 6th grade world cultures teacher at Lantana Middle School for four years. He recalls enjoying his time there. Not only that, but he began coaching a variety of sports, including softball, as well as  track and field. Under his tutelage, many of his female players qualified for the county championships in track and field.

During his stay in Florida, another life altering event took place. While playing in a fantasy football league of all things, Guevara met the woman that would later become his wife. Heather Guevara, a 6’1” woman of Swedish descent, something in which didn’t bother his mother, would soon be married to Guevara.

“She’s happy if I’m happy,” Guevara said when describing his mother’s take on his spouse.

She is a huge reason, along with the weather and coaching success, that Humberto genuinely enjoyed his time in Florida. His life would soon take a complete 180 when his wife decided she didn’t want to raise their family in Florida. So with their their-week-old son in tow, they moved to the northernmost state in the United States, Maine.

Maine is the state where Heather’s family resides, so they were elated to have one of their own return with a son and a husband. For Humberto however, it was a struggle to stay positive. It was always great to have so many babysitters nearby, and the holidays were always festive, but there was something about living so far north that Humberto couldn’t get over. He lost his motivation to get up and get going, and as a result, the daily tasks of being a teacher, father, and husband became increasingly taxing.

“After my first year there, my wife suggested I see a therapist,” Guevara said.

Although Heather’s suggestion helped assuage the situation, eventually her husband’s seasonal depression and apparent problem with cold weather became too much for her to bear. After four years of trying to cope, the family as of which is now of four, as the Guevara family had a daughter 15 months prior, moved to South Carolina.

The Guevara family moved to Fort Mill in 2013. Humberto’s son Parker was four, and his daughter Emerson was 15 months. Because they couldn’t decide on a house, Humberto and Heather agreed to live in an apartment for a year, and begin searching for a permanent residence after six months. Upon arriving, Guevara interviewed with Rock Hill School District 3 via Skype and he was offered a job at Saluda Trail as a Special-Education teacher.

He did this for four years while also coaching football, softball, and volleyball.

When asked if he had a special affinity for coaching softball, Guevara answered, “It’s what I played in high school, and it’s the first sport I ever coached. So yeah, it’s the sport I look forward to coaching the most.”

Before he coached at South Pointe, he coached football for the class of 2019 at Saluda Trail. Joe Ervin, Isaac Ross, Jalen Mahoney, and all the other star players you see featured in South Pointe colors played under Guevara at Saluda Trail. Even South Pointe alumni, Derion Kendrick, came through Saluda Trail while “Coach G”, as they call him, was there.

After Derion Kendrick broke Saluda Trail’s single season touchdown record, Guevara recalls Maurice Whitlock breaking it the following season. The most memorable thing he remembers about coaching the team, however, was no doubt their one loss to Dutchman Creek.

It was the most anticipated game of the season. Everyone believed the winner of this game would go on to win the county championship. Dutchman got out to a fast start 14-0, and in the middle of the first quarter, the Wildcats were already down two scores. At halftime it was 20-6, and things weren’t looking good. The Wildcats rallied however to take the lead 22-20, but not long after that, Dutchman Creek scored again, making the score 26-22 in the fourth quarter. Saluda Trail marched all the way to the 3 yard line, and had time for a play to win the game.

Adam Foxx ran an out and caught the ball. A Dutchman Creek defender attempted to tackle him, but Foxx hurdled him and ran in the touchdown. However, in a tragic turn of events, the referee called Foxx out of bounds on the play, and Saluda Trail’s game winning play was called back. The team ran out of time on the next play, and the game was over. The players were devastated. Their frustration was apparent, not because they lost, but because they did everything they could. The referee decided the game, not them.

Dutchman Creek went on to win the county championship, and Saluda Trail took their frustrations out in a consolation game at Gold Hill Middle School.

“They were just on a mission. They struggled a bit in the first half, but in the second half they just blew it wide open,” Guevara said about his team’s performance that day.

The score was so bad, he couldn’t even remember how much they won by. This was the start of the constant blowout South Pointe students and staff have witnessed over the past four years. That same core stayed together and helped the now South Pointe Stallions win the 2017 state championship at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC.

It wasn’t until that same year that Humberto Guevara took the Special-Education Resource teaching position at South Pointe. He’s had his current job for two years now. The most impactful thing that’s happened in his 13 years teaching has by far been the tragic loss of Chaella Woodson, the Varsity volleyball player he’d been coaching.

Having never dealt with this sort of adversity while coaching, all Guevara could do was console the friends, classmates, and teammates that were grieving in the aftermath of the awful incident.

The day after winning their first playoff game on Oct. 25, Chaella passed away in a car accident on Heckle Boulevard. The team had their first practice since the crash on the 29th of October, and the team’s mood was completely changed.

The next day, Coach G and the Stallions Varsity Volleyball team played East Side High School in their second round playoff matchup. As the players looked into the stands, they saw an amazing outpouring of support from across the area in their opponent’s bleachers. Not only did Chaella’s parents attend, but so did students and parents of Rock Hill High School, Northwestern High School, and York Preparatory Academy.

In the first set since losing one of their own, South Pointe clearly weren’t themselves and lost the first set.

“In the second set it was like, we aren’t going out like this, this isn’t how she’d want us to play,” Guevara said about the team’s second set effort.

They lost however, once again, going down 2-0.

South Pointe won the 3rd set, but after that, East Side pulled away. After the game was over there was an incredible release of emotion from both sides. Everyone saw how proudly South Pointe fought for Chaella, and as people everyone came together after the match to mourn this immeasurable loss.

“Even though we lost, I think it was a perfect ending to the season,” Guevara said. “They went down fighting. They fought until the very end.”

“He’s not just a coach, he’s a mentor. He actually cares about the well-being of his players,” former Junior-Varsity volleyball player Abigail Brasington had this to say about Coach Guevara.

So at the modest age of 41, Humberto Guevara has done and seen quite a bit. His influence across the many people he’s met and mentored is immeasurable. While his adversities have made him who he is, it’s these same experiences that he calls on when trying to influence the development of others in his teaching. South Pointe High School is very lucky to have their very own, “Coach G”.