Pillars of Character

Pillars of Character

In Northside ISD, learning and success go far beyond test scores and accountability ratings. Northside's curriculum is based on six "Pillars of Character," developed by the Josephson Institute. The pillars are: Caring, Citizenship, Fairness, Responsibility, Respect, and Trustworthiness. 

Teachers weave lessons about the pillars into classroom activities, and every year, the Northside Education Foundation selects six NISD graduates to represent each Pillar of Character. The six alumni serve as the centerpiece at the Foundation's annual fundraising gala and each must make a commitment to visit schools and speak with students. 

A poster of the current year's pillars hangs in all 6,000 classrooms in Northside to remind students that everyone has the potential to be a Pillar of Character. 

Pillars can be nominated by anyone in the community by completing the pillars nomination form. All nominees must be a Northside graduate. For more information, call the NISD Partnerships office at (210) 397-8599.

Mario Torres, Ph.D.

Mario Torres, Ph.D. ’86, Pillar of Learning

At ten years old, Mario Torres, Ph.D., wanted to be a United Nations Ambassador. The son of two former teachers deeply devoted to public education, he wanted to make a difference and fight for equity and justice. He says he had a yearning for public service.

He isn't a UN ambassador, but he did find his passion in serving the community he loves through research, teaching, and service. Today, Dr. Torres serves as Dean of the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

There are moments in Dr. Torres' life that inspired him to seek a life in public service. He remembers when his elementary school principal took the time to talk him through a difficult period in his life. His middle and high school years were filled with activities and opportunities for leadership roles, often guided by caring and nurturing teachers.

Dr. Torres says Jay High School, Northside Independent School District, and the surrounding community will always hold a special place in his heart. It was somewhere he was allowed to thrive and where there was a common mission for children to do great things and live special lives.

After graduation from UTSA with a degree in music studies, Dr. Torres taught music at a middle school in an underserved community, not unlike the neighborhood where he grew up. Through teaching, he wanted to help children overcome some of the same adversities he experienced in his youth. His interest in education leadership stemmed from instances where academics took a back burner to the outside challenges his students faced and the education inequities they all endured.

Dr. Torres has led a life filled with personal and professional achievements and accolades, including faculty appointments at Texas A&M University and Columbia University. All of his hard work has led him to want to create equitable systems where every child achieves their dreams. Every day, he says, he wakes up inspired and motivated to do what he can to ensure all children have access to high-quality education.

Dr. Torres attended Mary Hull Elementary School and Jones Middle School and graduated from Jay High School. He holds a bachelor's degree in music studies and a master's degree in educational leadership from UTSA and earned his doctorate in educational administration from Penn State University. He and his wife, Helyde, are the proud parents of Sergio and Evelyn.

Vannessa-Renee Gleye

Vannessa-Renee Gleye, ’13, Trustworthiness

During an elementary school lesson using counting blocks to determine length and width, Vannessa-Renee Gleye asked her teacher why she needed to learn those concepts. Her teacher explained that architects and the construction industry used measurements to build. The lesson piqued her curiosity and started Vanessa-Renee's lifetime love of building.

Vannessa-Renee's interest in construction never wavered from elementary to middle school. And after hearing a presentation at her middle school about the then-new Northside Independent School District magnet school Construction Careers Academy, Vannessa-Renee quickly signed up. Through the program, she learned the hands-on skills needed to be successful and the armor needed to navigate a male-dominated world. She said the transition to a new school, away from all her friends, was difficult, but she learned to persevere.

After graduation and armed with two associate degrees from St. Philip's College, Vannessa-Renee joined Habitat for Humanity. She quickly moved her way up from an on-site foreman to a site supervisor. After her stint at the non-profit and a construction company, she applied for what she thought was a position in the District's maintenance department. It turned out that she answered a post for a teaching position. After a quick interview, Vannessa-Renee joined the Taft High School staff as a construction careers teacher. While it was not the career she imagined for herself all those years ago in elementary school, Vannessa-Renee says she is right where she belongs.

As a teacher, she hopes to give her students the same opportunities she had while attending school at Northside ISD. Vannessa-Renee is a co-sponsor of the National Technical Honor Society, which helps celebrate her students' accomplishments within the career and technical fields. She also founded the Construction Summer Camp at Taft High School, where any student can work with the tools of the trade and, after a week, go home with a project they created and built.

As for Vannessa-Renee's advice to young girls aspiring for a career in construction: "Just do it and surround yourself with trusting, encouraging people."

Vannessa-Renee attended Colonies North Elementary School and Hobby Middle School and graduated from Construction Careers Academy. She holds two associate degrees from St. Philip's College. She is happily married to Gibson, her husband of two years. Together, they live happily with their three dogs and turtle.

Eduardo Sanchez

Eduardo Sanchez, D-NP ’89, Pillar of Respect

Watching his grandfather and parents manage their own business, Eduardo Sanchez, D-NP, knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur, too. Then life threw him a curve ball; he became a teen dad.

It was a challenging time in his life. He attended school for half a day and worked 30-40 hours weekly to support his young family. However, the goal of finishing high school remained in his sights.

Knowing that his minimum wage jobs limited his opportunities, he chose to join the United States Army as a conduit to higher education. He says the military taught him many lessons, including challenging his limits. Most of his friendships while serving in the Army were with medical personnel. It was a field that interested him, so he applied and received a scholarship to become a nurse.

After earning multiple degrees in nursing, Dr. Sanchez's dream of being an entrepreneur came true; he opened a pediatric clinic 20 years ago. He intentionally chose the clinic's location, inside Loop 410, within walking distance of the neighborhood homes, and on a bus line for easy access. The clinic, he says, is in a medically underserved community.

In addition to Dr. Sanchez and his staff's expert care, every new parent receives a copy of his book "Ask Dr. Ed Baby's First Year: A Survival Guide." The best part of his job, he says, is watching his young patients grow from infants to adults managing careers and families.

In his spare time, Dr. Sanchez works to help teen parents flourish. He serves as chairman of the board for Tyme to Empower, a local non-profit dedicated to supporting teen parents. The organization's founder is the 2012 Pillar of Respect, Monica Velasquez McIlwain, a fellow teen parent. In fact, during Monica's pregnancy, Dr. Sanchez acted as her Lamaze coach.

Dr. Sanchez is a Holmes High School graduate. He holds a bachelor's degree in nursing with a minor in military science from Prairie View A&M University, a master's degree in nursing from Texas Women's University, and earned his doctorate in nursing from the Maryville University of Saint Louis.

Marc Strode

Marc Strode, ’91, Pillar of Responsibility

Walking the halls of Methodist Hospital Texsan, Marc Strode is feeling nostalgic. It is one of three Methodist hospitals Marc served as CEO. Throughout his tenure, he would make rounds visiting patients, indulging in engaging conversation, asking if they were well taken care of, and handing out his business card. Marc did the same with the hospital staff. It's a practice he passed on to the current CEO.

The notion of caring for others and providing good service are skills he learned from his parents and while working as a server at a local restaurant. But a single course at Texas A&M University helped him find his career.

Marc grew up in the Clark High School attendance zone in what can be viewed as an idyllic childhood. He grew up in the days before the internet, Xbox, and cell phones, so he and his friends did what most kids did then: They rode bikes and played sports. The friendships he carved at such a young age have endured close to 40 years later.

After graduation from Clark High School, Marc studied engineering at Texas A&M University when he took a course in engineering as it applied to healthcare. That single course led to an internship at a Dallas hospital, and as Marc put it, he was hooked on the idea of shaping how healthcare is delivered.

Today Marc serves as a Senior Vice President of Methodist Healthcare, primarily focused on expanding their mission and growth strategies outside of Bexar County across the 26 counties they serve. While there is no doubt Marc's hard work and determination led to his success, kismet may have played a role as well. Marc and his wife of 25 years were born at a Methodist hospital 22 days apart and eventually met in science class at Clark High School.

Marc attended Colonies North Elementary School and Hobby Middle School and graduated from Clark High School. Marc holds a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Texas A&M University and a master's degree in healthcare administration from Trinity University. He and his wife Paige are the proud parents of four boys.

Paul “Jeff” Kuwamura

Paul “Jeff” Kuwamura, ’77, Pillar of Fairness

As the Holmes High School's Class of 1977 prepared for their graduation, they learned that William "Bill" Ludwikowski, a classmate, athlete, and overall good guy, had lost his battle with cancer. What seemed like an ending sparked a beginning more than 20 years later.

Paul "Jeff" Kuwamura, along with several members of the class of 1977, chose to honor Bill all those years later by creating a scholarship fund in his honor. Jeff said when the group came up with the idea of creating a scholarship fund, they passed a literal hat around to collect donations. Those donations turned into scholarships for Holmes High School students to begin their college journey.

Jeff has been in the business of beginnings throughout a long career in the real estate business. As the regional director of purchasing and estimating for Sitterle Homes, Jeff has seen a lot of beginnings and is passionate about giving underserved kids their beginnings. While serving on the Board of Directors for the Greater Northwest Community Improvement Association, Jeff worked to bring equity to the parks in the area and ensure neighborhood kids had somewhere to play and form lasting friendships. For all his hard work, the board named the park after him.

Equity played a crucial role in the creation of the William Ludwikowski Foundation. Jeff noticed a lack of scholarships for students in underserved neighborhoods in the Northside Independent School District. Jeff and a few fellow alumni formed the foundation to fill the gap and honor someone who meant so much to their class. Over the last 25 years, the group has awarded more than $300,000 in scholarships to Holmes High School graduates raised through a yearly event. When asked about Bill and what made him exceptional, Jeff says Bill was the best of them.

Jeff studied political science at Southwest Texas State University, now Texas State University. He attended Glenn Oaks Elementary School, Sul Ross, and Pat Neff middle schools and graduated from Holmes High School. Jeff is happily married to Candice, a fellow Holmes High School graduate, and they are the proud parents of Tiffany and Paul Jr., both Northside ISD graduates. He and his wife have five grandchildren, Paul III, Christian, Braylon, Kaleb, and Evelyn.

Maxine Junek

Maxine Junek, ’66, Pillar of Caring

Teaching came late to Maxine Junek's life. After graduating from Marshall High School, she had one year of college under her belt before she met the love of her life and got married. Together she and her husband built a well drilling business while raising a family, all within the Northside Independent School District's boundaries.

When her husband, Charlie, passed away, Maxine, with the encouragement of her sister-in-law, decided to go back to college and pursue a degree in education; she was in her mid-40s. She often says she was the oldest student in the room and sometimes older than her instructors, but she pressed on.

While working as a teacher for Northside ISD, Maxine strove to create a sense of community in her classroom. It was the same feeling she had growing up in a family of eight and attending Northside schools. Maxine says Northside ISD was still a young district when she attended, and every student knew each other. She and her siblings were an important part of the school and Northside community, giving them a sense of belonging. She recreated that feeling of belonging in her classroom and ensured each student was heard. But she knew it wasn't just students who needed someone to talk to; her colleagues also needed a kind ear. So, she listened, and she cared.

She says her greatest accomplishment, although her students may think differently, was the friendships she built with her fellow teachers. One friend said, "Her tenacity to continue and meet every challenge in life with her go ahead; we can do this attitude, is demonstrated on a daily basis. I believe she learned this from her mother: 'Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.' Maxine finds a purpose for everything and is a treasure trove of ideas and advice. She is dearly loved by many family and friends."

Maxine attended Leon Valley School and graduated from Marshall High School. She holds a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Maxine is the proud mother of four Northside ISD graduates. She has six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Jaclyn Roberson

Jaclyn Roberson, ’96, Pillar of Citizenship

As an elementary school student, Jaclyn Roberson wasn't contemplating career aspirations. She was having fun being a kid. But she knew one thing for sure; she was going to college. Watching her mother and other family members successfully navigate post-secondary academia, attending college for Jaclyn was less an expectation but more of an absolute.

Her first experience with the world of journalism came in middle school. She says the skills she learned she still uses today. She loved middle school because of all the academic options available to her and the diversity of the student body.

While attending Taft High School and writing for the campus newspaper, Jaclyn's interest in journalism grew into a career interest. In fact, as a high school student, she wrote movie reviews for the San Antonio Express-News.

She attended the University of Texas at Austin and worked as a reporter and editor for the award-winning Daily Texan while pursuing an undergraduate degree in journalism with an emphasis on magazine writing. She hoped to start a magazine, but a media law course sparked her interest in pursuing a law degree. She was intrigued by the different aspects of how the legal profession impacted the media. Upon receiving her law degree and studying for the bar exam, she worked for a non-profit organization under the umbrella of the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Jaclyn says the work primarily fell within the scope of family law, and she enjoyed helping people.

Today, Jaclyn is the co-founding partner of Roberson Duran Law PLLC. She said she is grateful for the opportunity to help families push through one of the most challenging times of their lives and act as a source of support, so they know they are not alone.

Jaclyn attended Stevenson Middle School and graduated from Taft High School. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and received her law degree from Tulane Law School.


Past Pillars

Title Pillar of... School Year
Charbonneau Bailey Learning Stevens High School 2021
Dr. Ronya Green Caring Health Careers High School 2021
Mike Hodges Fairness O'Connor High School 2021
W. Caleb McDaniel Respect Clark High School 2021
Officer Pete Vega Citizenship Jay High School 2021
Craig Robinson Responsibility Jay High School 2021
Dr. Scott Blattman Trustworthiness Marshall High School 2021
Diana Ely Learning Marshall High School 2020
Jasmin A. Dean Trustworthiness Clark High School 2020
Julia Barton Murphy Citizenship Clark High School 2020
John Picacio Fairness Holmes High School 2020
Dr. Alicia Wooten Respect Warren High School 2020
Dr. Erika Gonzalez Responsibility Health Careers High School 2020
Lorenzo Gomez, III Caring Health Careers High School 2020
Judge Rosie Alvarado Citizenship Marshall High School 2019
Mark Tezel Trustworthiness Marshall High School 2019
Capt. Jordan Eddington Respect Taft High School 2019
Daniel Flores Fairness Warren High School 2019
J.D. Story Responsibility Clark High School 2019
Imelda Lopez Sanchez Caring Holmes High School 2019
Cynthia J. Mendoza, Ph.D. Trustworthiness Holmes High School 2018
Dr. Mark Moran Responsibility Clark High School 2018
Cathryn Walker  Respect Warren High School 2018
Suzanne Schorlemer Bailey Fairness Clark High School 2018
Anthony Beverley  Citizenship Jay High School 2018
Monica C. Mendez, PT, DPT Caring Marshall High School 2018
Michelle Fiedler Mikesh Responsibility Taft High School 2017
Lt. Col. Colette Topfer Trustworthiness Taft High School 2017
Kristina Riffle Semukete  Caring Marshall High School 2017
Michael Dominguez  Citizenship Jay High School 2017
Frank Hakspiel Fairness Clark High School 2017
Mark Langford Respect Marshall High School 2017
Dr. Todd Gureckis Fairness Health Careers High School 2016
Kara Wilson Caring Marshall High School 2016
Dr. Simran Jeet Singh Respect O’Connor High School 2016
Laura Silva Nieto Citizenship Holmes High School 2016
James “Drake” McLean Responsibility Marshall High School 2016
Lori Castro Trustworthiness Taft High School 2016
SFC Chris Branagan Fairness Jay High School 2015
Dr. Jorge Alvarez Trustworthiness Clark High School 2015
Dr. Mandie Alice Tibball Svatek Respect Marshall High School 2015
Gina Jones Responsibility Jay High School 2015
J. Patrick Burk Caring Clark High School 2015
William F. Raba Citizenship Marshall High School 2015
Dr. Edward Carl Elder Caring Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2014
Kevin Wolff Citizenship Thomas C. Clark High School 2014
Dr. Meredith Rockeymoore Brooks Responsibility Health Careers High School 2014
Aaron Barker Fairness John Marshall High School 2014
James “Rad” Weaver Respect Jay and Clark High Schools 2014
Laura Elvia Hernández Trustworthiness John Jay High School 2014
Trey Martinez Fischer Citizenship Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2013
Keyhla Calderon  Respect John Jay High School 2013
Dr. Mike Flores Responsibility Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2013
Coach Danny Padron Fairness John Jay High School 2013
Dr. Melissa Blough Trustworthiness Thomas C. Clark High School 2013
Scott Kafora Caring Marshall High School 2013
Uma Pemmaraju Responsibility Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2012
Wade Cleary Trustworthiness Thomas C. Clark High School 2012
Eric G. Burns Caring Thomas C. Clark High School 2012
Monica Velasquez McIlwain Respect Thomas C. Clark High School 2012
Giancarlo “John” Ortega Fairness William H. Taft High School 2012
Dr. Martha Pritchett Mims Citizenship Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2012
Charles E. Cantu Responsibility John Marshall High School 2011
William Hurd Trustworthiness John Marshall High School 2011
Woodrow Halstead III Caring John Marshall High School 2011
Paul Barton Citizenship Health Careers High School 2011
David Henderson Fairness William H. Taft High School 2011
Celina and Marina Suarez Respect John Marshall High School 2011
Heidi Bush Respect Mackey School 2010
Linda Goldfarb Responsibility John Jay High School 2010
Marcedes M. Fuller Caring Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2010
Darold Williamson Trustworthiness Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2010
Captain Janae C. Florance Fairness John Jay High School 2010
Diana Cruz-Zapata Citizenship Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2010
Dr. Laurie Richardson Caring John Marshall High School 2009
Lt. Col. Scott Thomas Citizenship John Jay High School 2009
Crystal Brown-Tatum Fairness Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2009
Col. Lisa C. Firmin Respect Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2009
Dr. Kristin Held Responsibility John Marshall High School 2009
Chuck Cureau Trustworthiness John Marshall High School 2009
Dr. Fred Bryant Respect John Marshall High School 2008
Maj. Steven Gventer Trustworthiness Thomas C. Clark High School 2008
Charles "Chuck" Booker Caring John Jay High School 2008
Dr. Geoffrey Orsak Citizenship Thomas C. Clark High School 2008
Donna Eckert-Fields Fairness Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2008
Tony Pelletier Responsibility John Jay High School 2008
Dr. Gurpaul Singh Respect John Marshall High School 2007
John Igo Fairness Locke Hill* 2007
Andy Ramirez Caring Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2007
Dr. Douglas Meffert Responsibility John Marshall High School 2007
Dr. Lisa Meffert Responsibility John Marshall High School 2007
Brig. Gen. Michael Wilson Trustworthiness John Jay High School 2007
Greg Meffert Responsibility John Marshall High School 2007
Katy George   Sandra Day O'Connor High School 2007
Sarah Meffert Becher Responsibility John Marshall High School 2007
Col. (Ret) Jeff Meffert, M.D. Responsibility John Marshall High School 2007
Patrick Cornelius Trustworthiness John Marshall High School 2006
Michelle Ybarra Responsibility Thomas C. Clark High School 2006
Haroon Monis Citizenship Thomas C. Clark High School 2006
Col. Renita Foster Menyhert Respect John Jay High School 2006
Karen Grace Fairness William H. Taft High School 2006
Cliff Dugosh Caring Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2006
Kathy Bosse Gore Citizenship Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2005
Will Telford Trustworthiness Thomas C. Clark High School 2005
Dr. Scott R. Harper Responsibility John Marshall High School 2005
Dr. Shannon P. Marquez Caring John Jay High School 2005
Oscar Alvarado Fairness Thomas C. Clark High School 2005
Rev. Betty Meadows Respect Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2005
Robert Reyes Caring William H. Taft High School 2004
Eldridge Burns Jr. Responsibility Thomas C. Clark High School 2004
Jeffrey Hoberman Respect Thomas C. Clark High School 2004
Tamry Haby Johnson Citizenship John Marshall High School 2004
Phillip C. McKee III Fairness Health Careers High School 2004
John Bordano Trustworthiness John Marshall High School 2004
Cris Bera   William H. Taft High School 2003
Rita Crockett   Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2003
David Fisher   Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2003
Elaine Mendoza-Gay   Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2003
Tyrone Powers   John Jay High School 2003
Tamara Serwer   Thomas C. Clark High School 2003
Dr. Sara L. Gill   John Jay High School 2002
Rodolfo Gonzales   William H. Taft High School 2002
Priest Holmes   John Marshall High School 2002
Dean H. Krueger   John Marshall High School 2002
Mason Reddix   Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2002
Dr. Maya Rockeymoore   John Jay High School 2002
Susan Evers   John Marshall High School 2001
Blake Warren Woolsey   Thomas C. Clark High School 2001
Xavier Benavides   William H. Taft High School 2001
Jay Fielden   Thomas C. Clark High School 2001
Garrett K. Peel   Health Careers High School 2001
Michael K. Hatchett   John Jay High School 2001
Glenn E. Gill   John Marshall High School 2000
Col. Catherine Bacon   John Jay High School 2000
Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil   John Jay High School 2000
Evan Young   Thomas C. Clark High School 2000
Lili Kristan   Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2000
Scott Kercheville, MD   Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 2000
Wallace B. Jefferson   John Jay High School 1999
Todd White   John Marshall High School 1999
John Cornyn   Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 1999
Jennifer Guitierrez-Utberg   Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 1999
Harriet Marmon Helmle   John Marshall High School 1999
Tom Yantis   Oliver Wendell Holmes High School 1999
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