My teacher: Mr. Runyan, a legend for the Cleveland Cavaliers

"A champion...really you're doing something worthwhile for the community...
(a champion is) not just being a star in the television or a movie. It's somebody 
who really contributes. And you are all really champions."

I am going to overgeneralize when I say the following (my apologies), but the older I get the more I notice something evolving in my frame of thinking. I am starting to realize that it's usually when something tragic happens, that people tend to step back and look at their life choices.

Since August of last year, I have been loosing people in my life; they've joined (as my friend Paloma says) the spirit world. This past weekend, my high school teacher, Mr. Runyan of  Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda, California - has passed away. Our Drafting teacher dedicated his adult life to making sure his students were professional leaders of the future. Because of him I joined SkillsUSA (which was then called Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, VICA), I was part of the BOEING Job Shadowing Program, and I learned how to prepare for a job interview, how to present myself in front of an audience, and I learned how to compete; that is how to win and lose. Under his leadership I even won a couple of gold medals.

I found out about Mr. Runyan's passing as I waited for the metro train in L.A. with my family. It was Mother's Day. We were discussing what we were going to have for dinner that evening. I read the email message and my body sank in disbelief. Suddenly my mind went back in time to pull files out, files of memories with Mr. Runyan. In my minds eye I saw myself reading through moments with my teacher that were monumental in the shaping of my artistic and professional skills. Then came the questions; questions I knew could not be answered. Regrets seeped through me: I should have visited more, I should have been better about staying in touch. I should have done more. Then I stopped myself. I took a deep breath and continued to celebrate Mothers Day with the family.

We walked around Universal City Walk, but my mind was still in this in between world - the past and the present mingled together as we strolled through the old and new shops on the strip. Back in the days, I would walk around the movie theater and restaurants and think about things that seem trivial to me now. What dress will I wear to prom? Will I make the dance team? and How much would I have to save up to go to grad night at Disney with my friends? Everything was static. Never once in my young teenage self did I consider the fact that I'd be getting older, that I'd have different priorities, and that I'd be leaving the San Fernando Valley to pursue media, arts, and non-profit work. Teenage-hood, if you will, made life like a roulette game that always landed on the same number and color. It never ever occurred to me that the people in my life would not always be there, that my body and mind would change, and that I'd be standing at Universal years later thinking about the vast difference between Rosa then, and Rosa now. That I'd be celebrating my mother for giving me the gift of life, and quietly mourning the passing of my teacher, Mr. Runyan.

I watched children play by the same water fountains I used to play in, I smiled and envied their innocence. I wished these children would get to have a teacher who cared as much as Mr. Runyan did. He impacted so many of his students.

My thoughts continue to race.

I knew that person, I spoke with him, I learned from him, I watched him smile, I was in his class when the second airplane hit the 9-11 towers and he stood in front of us and expressed compassion, patience, as we watched in horror. He turned off the television and consoled his wife over the phone. He was always honest with us. He told me about the BOEING Job Shadowing program and I got to shadow an employee and learn about engineering through welding mechanisms. He took all his students to the NHRA races and we volunteered clean up after the race. He insisted that volunteering was not a chore, but an act that should be practiced in all communities. He taught us the value of being on time, being precise, using our words carefully, making eye contact, shaking hands firmly, how to suit up for an interview, and most importantly -- he demonstrated through his words and actions just how valuable each and every one of his students are.

It was a privilege to have been taught by Mr. Runyan. I remind myself now, that there is no need to feel regret, you see, he's always been here. Because that is what a good teacher does, they stick with you. And you are a better person because of it. Thank you Mr. Runyan for everything you've done. May your spirit continue to thrive through your students and may your voice resonate in us when we advice younger version of us, who sometimes need to be reminded how important our voices are. You were right, we are valuable. Thank you for letting us know.

You will always be a part of my past, and I will keep your teachings with me as I move towards my future. God bless.