Over holiday break, the Mineola community was shaken by tragedy. One of the school's most beloved students, Christian Melendez, passed away in a car accident. The past few weeks have been extremely difficult for anyone and everyone who knew Christian, especially his peers here at Mineola High School. Losing a member of a school community doesn't just mean losing a fellow student. It means losing a friend, a brother, a teammate, a classmate, a leader, a captain, a role model, and an amazing human being. We wanted to use this article to share a little bit about what Christian meant to Mineola High School and our town in general.
The people who knew Christian best were his friends, a large number of them being his soccer teammates as well. He was described by many as being one of the most positive people that they knew, always being around to cheer people up, making them smile and laugh no matter how sad they were. He was always ready to be there for his friends and stand up for them. In every single picture he appears in, he has a huge smile on his face, and he's usually doing something goofy with one of his friends in them, too. You didn't have to know him personally to see how committed he was to the things that mattered to him.
At every soccer game, he gave everything that he had. Mr. Cavalluzzo, an English teacher at Mineola and one of Christian's coaches, told us countless stories about how much he loved playing soccer, from refusing to give up his uniform at the end of his senior season to always wanting to come in and score goals in close games. While soccer was his passion, he was enthusiastic about anything and everything that had to do with our town and our high school community. Mr. Pereira, one of his soccer coaches, was quoted saying that he had something with "Mineola" on it nearly every day, and would always buy multiple shirts, jackets, or any kind of school gear whenever it was on sale.
At Mineola High School, honoring this young man and building his legacy has only just begun. On January 2nd, the first day back in school after holiday break and the accident, a picture of Christian (wearing his soccer uniform, of course) was hung in the main lobby. A banner sat on a table next to it, with students constantly crowding around to sign it. On January 3rd, what would have been Christian's 19th birthday, a sunrise vigil was held on the soccer field turf before school, where our community gathered to sing "Happy Birthday" to him one last time. That afternoon, we gathered outside of the building before his funeral procession began, saying our final goodbyes and sending all of our love to his family. The day concluded with a soccer game held in Christian's memory after school, sponsored by the Booster Club and PTSA. On Friday, January 11th, the class of 2019 held a talent show, with a finale dedicated to Christian. Finally, on Saturday, January 12th, a Futsal (type of soccer) tournament was held at the school in his honor, with spectators welcome to bring donations. At the end of the year, the first-ever Christian Melendez Scholarship will be given out, funded by donations, proceeds from the Talent Show, the Futsal Tournament, and other events.
Along with all of the events mentioned earlier, students have also had the opportunity to buy "Live Like A Champion" t-shirts, a motto we've associated with Christian in the past few weeks. The shirts are in Mineola colors, of course, with angel wings on the front and his name and number on the back. Wearing them around school has helped to give us a sense of togetherness that is sure to grow. The money from these t-shirt sales will go to the scholarship fund as well. Right now, the school community is accepting suggestions from students and Christian's family on how to keep his memory alive. A Go Fund Me campaign has been running to help his family with costs, which can be found here. If there's one thing that we've learned over the past few weeks, no matter how difficult and heart-wrenching they've been, it's that the village of Mineola is made up of an extremely strong community of students and adults. We will continue to fill our days with love and positivity, live like champions, and keep Christian Melendez in our hearts forever. Fly high, #10, we love and miss you more than you know.
(Pictures via Newsday)