Teammates, coaches and family members came together recently to honor the memory of Christian Melendez, the Mineola High School student who died in a car accident in 2018 in Williston Park when the car he was traveling in left the roadway, drove through a fence and into a sump flipping upside down into the water below. Melendez was on the high school’s soccer team, was a four-year varsity starter and co-captain of the team.
“While this ceremony is usually attached to a soccer game and a large celebration, unfortunately due to the pandemic we are unable to do so,” Mineola High School principal Dr. Whittney Smith said at the third annual memorial ceremony. “Christian Melendez was an incredible young man who left an indelible image on my mind and heart. I had the privilege of knowing Christian as he was a presence in the high school. He was one of our charter members of the Computer Science Cohort program where he took college courses and participated in a year-long intern experience while also taking high school classes. It is not an easy program and it takes commitment and dedication, much like the sport of soccer that he loved so much.”
As a sophomore, Melendez was an All-Conference player. As a junior, he was All-County honorable mention and as a senior he was not only All-County, but also on the Nassau County Senior All-Star team that played against Suffolk County. He had more than 20 goals in his career.
Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira, who was also one of Melendez’s coaches, said he remembers how the community rallied around Melendez’s family during their difficult time. Pereira recalls that even people from outside of Mineola rallied around the family as well showing how big Melendez’s impact truly was on others.
“The way that he competed on the field was just determination, put it on my shoulders, I want to be the person that has all the pressure on him and I will respond, and that’s what he did from when he was a freshman to a senior,” Pereira said. “He was a teammate’s teammate and those are the images and memories that I will have of Christian and I vow that as long as I am here his memory will continue to live on through all of us, the program, the scholarship and through us as a community.”
Melendez’s varsity soccer coach Al Cavalluzzo said that as a coach Melendez had all the qualities one looks for in a player.
“He was competitive, but he was compassionate,” he explained. “He was focused, but he was funny, and he was selfless, but when needed to he could be selfish and put the team on his back and bring the game home for us. I think the one thing that really stands out about Christian is the pride that he took in wearing Mineola colors. We joke about him wearing something that said Mineola on it everyday.”
To further the memory of Melendez, the high school will be dedicating a brick with his name on it. The school will be ordering the brick in the fall and it will be placed in the spring.
“It’s just another way for us to memorialize Christian and everything he represents to the school,” Cavalluzzo said.