Spring Branch ISD is proud of its many alumni working in “essential” jobs, who are supporting Houston’s road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
This week we are highlighting some SBISD graduates serving in roles beyond the medical field. (See previous story about alumni working in healthcare.)
From their time as students in the district, these alumni intrinsically know it will take the force of Collective Greatness to bring us through these tough times.
Using expertise gained from coordinating the distribution of over 200,000 meals in the two weeks following Hurricane Harvey, Jonathan Beitler (Memorial High School, Class of 2000) and Cat Nguyen are currently collaborating to provide meals for laid-off restaurant workers through an initiative they co-founded called Houston Shift Meal.
“We take in monetary donations through our website at www.houstonshiftmeal.com, which then go directly out to restaurants who prepare free meals for out-of-work members of the hospitality industry,” said Beitler.
Beitler owns Barrelhouse Media, a public relations and event production agency.
“There are no major festivals or events taking place for the foreseeable future, which has forced me to look for other types of work beyond my normal scope of business,” he said.
“While that would make some people slide into depression or binge Netflix all day, it made me do the opposite; I use my extra time to focus on building Houston Shift Meal and keep busy by giving back to our community.”
Financial services are designated as “essential” during this time of stay-at-home orders. A trio of SBISD alumni at First Community Credit Union (FCCU) continue to serve their internal and external customers, albeit in altered ways.
Juan Alatorre (Northbrook High School, Class of 2008) normally manages FCCU Barker Cypress and Fairfield branches as a vice president. At this time, these locations are closed to protect employees and customers from COVID-19, so he is now assisting in the credit union’s real estate department.
“[This is a] major change not being able to assist our members face-to-face,” said Alatorre. “We take pride in being able to make a difference in our members’ lives and the current situation limits us.”
Online and via the phone, he and FCCU team members are still able to assist members with auto, home and personal loans and opening new accounts.
At home Alatorre exercises and runs two or three miles a day, and takes time to reach out to family and friends to make sure they are staying safe.
“During this time I have realized it is the small moments in our lives that matter most and we should cherish those times with family and friends,” said Alatorre.
Stan McBee (Northbrook High School, Class of 1978) works as a general clerk behind the scenes to support the FCCU employees who more directly serve members. His duties include handling incoming and outgoing mail within his office building and among the credit union branches.
McBee earned a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Houston following his graduation from Northbrook High.
“We are still here for [our members’] financial needs,” said McBee of the FCCU team. “We give them a good deal with friendly, trained service.”
He reminds the public to practice good common sense while stay-at-home are in effect. “Not only for yourself,” said McBee. “Don’t be a [COVID-19] carrier to your loved ones at home and society at large.”
Eddie Rodriguez (Spring Woods High School [SWHS], Class of 2011), usually serves as a personal banker at the FCCU Fairfield branch, but at this time he is working from the credit union’s Spring Branch location. He assists with account maintenance and loan products.
While at SWHS, Rodriguez was in the GEAR UP college readiness program, which prepared him to attend University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance.
Rodriguez also credits SWHS Advanced Placement (AP) English teacher, Mr. McConn, for being very engaging and showing students that he cared about them.
“I feel my customer service has improved during this difficult time,” said Rodriguez. “I want to make sure that every [FCCU] member I help feels that they have my 100% attention.”
Exercising, staying hydrated and connecting with friends and family are part of his at-home routine.
“I recommend trying to follow a schedule and make a list of things to get done and/or improve upon,” said Rodriguez. “This will help you stay organized by taking one thing at a time.”
Law enforcement personnel are always a part of the essential workforce. Houston Police Dept. officer, David Kassir (Westchester Academy of International Studies [WAIS], Class of 2013), is assigned to patrol in the Third Ward neighborhood on the evening shift.
Kassir first attended Rice University after graduating from WAIS. While in college, he worked part time as an emergency medical technician (EMT), which sparked his interest in attending the police academy. He has been with HPD for nearly two years.
“We are using PPE [personal protective equipment] when responding to emergencies,” said Kassir. “We disinfect our vehicles after transporting people, too.”
Officer Kassir has noticed there are less calls to 911 for service, but not necessarily less crime. He urges the public to “follow the [COVID] guidelines, and stay out of trouble.”
He has three siblings (all graduates of WAIS) who also work in front-line roles in the healthcare field, and his mom is principal at the Spring Branch Academic Institute in SBISD—another essential job!
Brady King (Memorial High School, Class of 2008) hopes these difficult times will pass soon. He is an operations manager for his family’s diverse business, Palletized Trucking. He works in the heavy haul division, which mostly provides services for oil field clients.
As a result of the COVID-19 slowdowns and oil price drops, King said, “We are slow right now.” However, he is thankful their business has other divisions that are busy delivering critical medical supplies to area facilities, handling cargo and storing goods, among other services.
“We rely on the loyalty of our customers,” said King. They have built long-term relationships over the 50-plus years of the company’s history. “It is very competitive right now. We have to offer discounts and just be nice.”
A positive in his life right now is his recent engagement. He and his fiancé are planning an October wedding.
His sister, Kolby (King) Rodriguez (Memorial High School, Class of 2004), also works for the family company in accounting. While working remotely, she is helping her two young children with at-home learning while her husband works as a physician.