A Real Role Model

Round Lake High School Alan Espinoza strives to be the best he can be.

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Photo Provided

Daniela Vargas and Paola Bautista

It’s Friday night. Players on the field with stern faces are hoping to get a win. Adrenaline is rushing through their bodies. Sweat is falling down their foreheads. The varsity football players are waiting for the “Hike!” from their quarterback, and the game begins. Everyone on the offensive side is trying really hard to block the opponent players and help their running back get to the end zone.

That is a typical game day for Senior Alan Espinoza, varsity football player and captain. Espinoza has the pressure of having to be a good captain for his team. He also has other responsibilities in and out of school, but cannot complain because he knows that it is part of his everyday life.

Espinosa is a 17-year-old Round Lake senior with a laid back style. Clad in a t-shirt, shorts, and Vans shoes, Espinoza can be seen at National Honors Society meetings, Panther Leader meetings,  or donning his cleats and pads as he works with his teammates as the football captain of Round Lake’s varsity team. He juggles his extracurricular activities and school responsibilities while working part time at his uncle’s Mexican restaurant. But what makes Alan different from other busy student athletes? He has lived his entire life in Oxnard, California. This year will make his fourth year living here in Round Lake. In such a brief amount of time, he has already made significant accomplishments and changes, not only in his life, but in others’ as well.

Alan Espinosa and his family, who includes his parents and two brothers, moved to Illinois to be closer with relatives, but his journey to football captain started long before the move to Round Lake. “We were lonely in California and no one would visit us,” stated Espinosa. “I didn’t get much attention growing up since I was the middle child and I would always fight with my brothers.One day, my neighbors called me outside to play football with them and ever since then, I loved the physical contact the game has to it.”

Ten years later, Alan is now starter running back and punter for the Round Lake High School football team. “Once I’m on the field, I can forget about everything going on in my life,” he said. One of the reasons why football is Espinoza’s passion is because he feels as if he can relieve his stress while playing the game. Some of his most proud moments were when he received his Most Important Player Of Offense (M.I.P) award, North Suburban All-Conference award, Panther Pride award, and second place in football for the county conference during his eighth grade year in California.

“Being All- Conference in football has been my biggest accomplishment yet, since it proves that I’ve been dedicated to the sport that I love,” Espinosa said.

Even with a busy schedule, Espinosa still finds time for all of his priorities. Teammate Alex Valladares, who is also a football captain, said, “Alan sets a good example for everyone on the team to become a better player.” Football Coach Cristo Garza added, “Alan has always been a leader since day one; that’s actually one of the reasons why I chose him to be one of the football captains.”

When asked what advice he would give to his peers who are second guessing themselves to take initiative to do something Espinoza said, “ Take a chance and just keep working hard because you may be a role model for someone. You know, someone might be unexpectedly looking up to you.”

For Espinoza, his role models are his grandfather and his uncle. “My grandfather got diagnosed with cancer, but he didn’t let that hold him back at all, he kept fighting,” Espinoza said. “He always encouraged me to do my best with whatever it was.”

Espinoza’s uncle, on the other hand, showed him the value of perseverance, even when it seems like the odds are stacked too high. “My family first started off picking in the fields, but my uncle later realized that life wasn’t for him, so he went off on his own,” Espinoza said. “He started working at McDonald’s, then later became the manager. He saved up enough money to move to Illinois and from there, he had become part owner of a restaurant and is now running his own business. I’d like to be like him one day, and just be able to do things on my own.”

Just like how Espinoza’s uncle and grandfather inspire him to do his best, Espinoza inspires others to do their best as well, whether it’s relatives, classmates, teammates, or close friends. “My little brother tries to be like me,” Espinosa said. “When I started to realize he was feeding off of me, I had to start thinking about my decisions better. If he’s going to try to be like me, I can’t portray myself as a bad image to him.”

Espinosa’s best friend, Kenneth Perez, also finds inspiration in him. “He’s my best friend and he’s always been there for me,” Perez said. “He motivates me to do my best in everything just like best friends should do.”

Everyone has flaws and struggles, no matter how perfect the person may seem. Alan Espinosa has difficulty opening up to people; some might even say he’s quite conservative and stubborn. “Mostly because I am not an open person, so if I am super stressed I don’t tell anyone about it,” he said.  “I think that everyone has those moments of just wanting to leave and be done with everything, but I manage to find a way through it.” And for him, working through it means a lot of planning.  “Juggling between school, football, and work I feel like planning out your schedule ahead of time definitely makes things easier,” he said.“Being organized helps with being a well-balanced person so you won’t build up stress and can soon be successful in all three things.”

Espinoza  would like to see himself in 10 years hopefully financially set and successful in his career as a registered nurse and being able to provide not only for his future immediate family, but for his parents’ necessities as well. “[I’d just like] to simply give back,” Espinoza said.. “It’s rare for me to ever have free time for myself considering I’m a very busy person, but I know all this hard work will pay off in the long run.”