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HOUSTON - Using a piece of cardboard as a makeshift bed, Nathan laid on the grass underneath the shade of a tree on the side of the road in the Acres Homes community.
Nathan is homeless. He is addicted to crack. He hadn’t had a haircut in nearly two years, and recently found out that his daughter had passed away in January.
Nathan was alone on the side of the road until Zacchaeus Henry walked up during the last weekend in April. The 17-year-old wanted to help.
“I feel like God put all of us on this earth with a purpose and I feel like my purpose is to help others,” Henry said.
Henry gifted Nathan with a meal from Raising Canes. A pair of Jordan 1’s and white Air Force Ones. Two new shirts, underwear, a mask, blanket, deodorant a backpack and $22.
Then, the aspiring barber gave him his first haircut in 17 months.
“I feel like a haircut can change a person’s life,” Henry said. “It is a self-esteem booster, self-love booster and can make you want to do more as a person because when you look good... you feel good, and you do good.”
His name is Nathan… he is one of themany homeless men in Houston with a story. I decided to give back to my Acres Homes community. I am a 17 year old who is blessed ; cost very little to me but he told me when he got out the chair “ I feel like a whole new person” pic.twitter.com/KO51oFWWvp— Zacchaeus Henry (@ZacchaeusHenry) May 1, 2022
Giving back is something Henry has been taught during his upbringing.
Acres Homes is the community is father Eric was born and raised in. When he was just 17, he went to federal prison for four years. Now, at 40, he has brought his family back to where he was raised and just finished building a home from the ground up.
“He is my mentor, provider and role mode,” Henry said. “Growing up he taught me the difference between right and wrong and being a good person. This is why I try to help others in any aspect of their lives rich or poor because I know at any point of my life I may be in their position and would want or need help. At the end of the day, we are all human.”
These kinds of life lessons are what Eisenhower football coach Eric Jackson talks about every day to his team, which Henry is the quarterback of.
The veteran coach and his staff relate football to life all the time. How to handle success, how to handle adversity and the life-long lessons that come with it.
Now, Jackson has his soon-to-be senior starting quarterback as a prime example for his next lesson.
“It makes me proud; we are always talking about caring about people caring about each other,” Jackson said. “To see him help him out makes me feel good and the whole team feel good. It just shows you the type of kids we have. They care about people’s welfare and doing the right thing.”
While Henry was helping Nathan out, he and a friend made a video blog post from their day.
It included him giving Nathan the items, driving around in his car and even giving him his haircut. Henry posted it to his TikTok, @exclusive.fadez, and his Twitter account.
In less than 24 hours, it had been viewed over 10,000 times.
“I hope when people see my video, they feel inspired because I know at a young age you feel like you can’t do much to make a difference,” Henry said. “But you can make a change in your community at any age.”
This summer, Henry is set to host his first pop-up shop in June to continue to give back to his community. The event will have vendors, live entertainment and food.
A 17-year-old looking to change the world. With the name Zacchaeus, who in the bible was known for his generosity, it all makes sense doesn’t it?
GROWING UP, ANDRES GOMEZ LEARNED HOW TO BE COMFORTABLE WITH THE UNCOMFORTABLE.
Born in Mexico, Gomez and his family moved to Katy when he was nine years old. The first home was a one bedroom apartment for the immigrant family of five.
“I was literally uprooted from what I knew and what I was comfortable with to a new place, a new culture, a new language, new everything, without knowing it was coming,” said Gomez, now the head football coach/campus athletic coordinator at Northbrook High School. “When we first came here, us kids were told we were going on a vacation.
“My dad was over here already working for a few months because the situation was tough in Mexico, and we were told we were going to go visit him. A week later, we were getting an apartment and staying here.”
Gomez was in the fourth grade when he started school in his new country. He vividly remembers carrying a lunch bag, following everyone around, not saying a word. Eventually, they ended up in the cafeteria, but when he got to a table, Gomez realized he had left his lunch in a classroom.
He broke down crying.
Gomez had no idea how to get back to the classroom and did not speak English nearly well enough to where he could talk to anyone around him.
“It was me and my two older brothers, figuring things out together,” Gomez said of his childhood. “Now, two of the three of us have our Master’s degrees, all of us went to Texas A&M, and all of us are coaches.”
Gomez is adept at keeping a level head about things and working promptly through adverse situations. It’s that M.O. that has carried him through 18 years of coaching, including the last two years at Northbrook.
That resilience led the University Interscholastic League to recognize him as one of 15 winners for the 2021 UIL Sponsor Excellence Award.
Now in its 31st year, the award identifies “outstanding sponsors who enable students to develop and refine their extracurricular talents to the highest degree possible within the education system.” Each winner receives $1,000 and a symbolic memento from the UIL.
“I had varied experiences growing up that I feel gives me the ability to relate to different kinds of kids,” Gomez said. “I appreciate the value of being part of a team and working as hard as I can to better myself, because that’s how I grew up. I can look at every kid and see the value they bring to our program. The impact we can have on everybody that comes through our doors is how I measure success.”
Gomez’s coaching stops include Northbrook, Klein Cain, College Park, Klein Oak, and Aldine. He has helped lead six teams to the playoffs.
It was during his middle school years at West Memorial Junior High in Katy that Gomez knew he wanted to be a coach. Gomez admired Paul McStravick, his history teacher and football coach, for his demeanor, confidence, and an aura of trust and accountability.
“I told myself then that I wanted to be like him,” Gomez said. “That’s the path I wanted to choose.”
Gomez attended Katy High School and played receiver on the 1997 State Championship Tigers team. Being around legendary coaches like Mike Johnston, Don Clayton, Chris Massey, and Gary Joseph only justified his future ambitions.
“Those guys showed me what it was like to lead a program, how to do things right and to maximize effort and potential with every rep and practice,” Gomez said. “From there, that path in life just fit me.”
Gomez found his way to Northbrook for his first head coaching job. It has been an ideal pairing.
Northbrook is a school in which there is a lot of movement in population because of difficult home circumstances for students.
“They have different life experiences than others,” Gomez said. “I’ve had kids that couldn’t come to practice because they had to babysit their siblings or had to work. We had a kid who was a good athlete, great size, who left school because his family needed him to work. Kids can’t make athletics a priority all the time. They have other things going on. But we’re always going to put our best out there.”
Gomez cites incremental progress as being essential at a school like Northbrook. Every accomplishment is significant, no matter how big or small.
For instance, though the Raiders went winless in 10 games last season, there were four games in which they were within a touchdown in the fourth quarter. They lost a doubleovertime game to Spring Woods.
None of that had happened in the 2020 season.
While Northbrook is finding its way athletically, academically the Raiders compete with anyone, boasting a plethora of all-state and all-district honorees.
“This place is incredible,” Gomez said. “We have some of the most well-behaved kids I’ve ever been around. These are kids trying to do the best they can to better themselves. They don’t have the comforts some other kids have to just focus on athletics.
“But they will do anything for you, and they will maximize their potential every single time to be competitive.”