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RHS principal pays it forward to next generation

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People look at the sharply dressed, affable principal at Roswell High School, Pilar Carrasco, and think he’s got it going on. Carrasco is known to be involved in the lives of his students. He will show up to activities and sporting events to offer encouragement and support.

When Carrasco shows up, it’s to let the students know he cares for them and about them. Not because they’re athletes or involved in activities — no, Carrasco is paying a debt to those who invested in his life when he was a little boy. He’s paying it forward to the next generation of kids, for the life he is able to lead.

With a beautiful wife and two healthy kids, people see him now but don’t realize it took a village to invest in him and raise him. Or his life might have turned out differently.

His parents, Miguel and Cruz Carrasco, migrated to the United States from Mexico when he was 10 months old. Growing up in Lovington was tough. He wasn’t a citizen or resident of the U.S. He did the best he could, but it was tough for him.

With his dad not around often, when he was in sixth grade his family went through the amnesty process to establish residency. Fate smiled upon him because his teachers saw that he was a good athlete and they tried to help him.

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When he was in eighth grade, his parents left him alone to live in their house. Carrasco was on his own for two years. He received help from the community because they saw he was trying to do good things with his life.

One of his teachers, Lynda McGinnes, told Carrasco, “If you’re not happy with your life, and where your life is headed, and you’re afraid you won’t be successful in life, the fastest way to make sure you have success is to get an education.”

“During those two years, I was homeless,” Carrasco said, “I never missed a day of school. I had perfect attendance. I went to school to be with my friends and to play sports. People at school showed me they loved me and cared about me. The idea of athletics is what really saved my life. I didn’t learn how to become a student until later.”

When Carrasco was in high school, he was adopted by John and Kathy Stroh and had two adopted sisters. Three teachers made sure that he was OK: McGinnes, Carol Streber and Dixie Drummond. Carrasco would end up living with the “nannies” after graduating high school. They helped him fill out his Free Application for Federal Student Aid and apply for scholarships.

“My story is a wonderful story,” Carrasco said. “It’s about how a community helped a kid through rough times. It is because of my teachers and coaches that I went to school. They gave me the vision that education is imperative to be a productive citizen.”

People made sure Carrasco stayed on the straight and narrow, beginning with his best friend Justin Hilburn. Both men would become closer than brothers. So close that Carrasco named his firstborn son after Hilburn.

New Mexico Military Institute football coach Dwight Burns offered Carrasco a scholarship after watching him play basketball. Carrasco was all-state in football and basketball his junior and senior years at Lovington.

Burns loved the way that Carrasco played with passion and how he hustled all the time. In college, Carrasco played football, basketball and threw the javelin.

At NMMI, Carrasco was on the dean’s list and earned a scholarship to ENMU where he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology. NMMI taught him how to study and to be more disciplined. He was an academic All-Lone Star Conference athlete at Eastern New Mexico University.

Carrasco’s love affair with NMMI would not end when he graduated. Carrasco has seen every side of NMMI, from being a Recruit At Training “RAT” to a new cadet, then being an officer on the regimental staff. Carrasco would later be a teacher, coach and associate dean.

“NMMI is New Mexico’s best-kept secret,” Carrasco said. “I would highly recommend NMMI to all youth, especially if they need to learn how to become a successful student.”

When Carrasco graduated from NMMI, he chose Eastern New Mexico University-Portales to continue his education and career. He played for Harold “Bud” Elliott, where he was an All-Conference tight end. 

After graduating, Carrasco had a tryout with the Oakland Raiders and the Miami Dolphins, and participated in an NFL combine in Los Angeles, but was not selected by an NFL team. Carrasco had no hard feelings, because he had a great college career and he lived his dream of trying out for the NFL. He was OK with not making it because he went as far as his talents could take him. Finally, when he held his college degree in his hands, he had graduated debt-free.

Carrasco’s first job out of college was at NMMI as a sports information director. He would stay for a long time and coach at NMMI.

After NMMI, Carrasco was offered the head girls’ basketball job at Lovington, where he coached for a state title. After a while, he went back to NMMI as the boys’ basketball coach and was there for a total of 14 years.

Not thinking about leaving NMMI, Lovington’s superintendent Darin Manes offered Carrasco the job as the Freshman Academy principal. Carrasco had earned his master’s in administration and took the job.

Carrasco’s mother-in-law was sick, and they decided to move back to Roswell. RHS principal Ruben Bolaños told him there was an opening at the school for the vice-principal position and he should apply along with the other applicants.

“My story is one of love that teachers and coaches can give kids,” Carrasco said. “You talk about the pandemic right now; teachers in the classroom are vital to kids. I know thousands of kids in our community need that contact. But also, what’s important is what coaches do for kids.”

Carrasco heard a coach say, the knowledge a student gains in the classroom is going to help them earn a living. But the lesson they learn as athletes are going to save their lives. Sports teaches athletes how to fight through difficult things and not to quit.

One of Carrasco’s goals as principal is to get the graduation rate above 90% in four years. He would like to raise the English language proficiency and math proficiency for four consecutive years, with the fourth year culminating in being above the state average, and being around 40% proficiency in both English and math. He also wants to hire a certified teacher for every classroom at RHS.

“I have been very fortunate in my life,” Carrasco said. “I have been loved and supported by people in Lovington, NMMI and Roswell. I’m so grateful Mr. Gottlieb took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity to fulfill my lifelong career dream of being a principal.”

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.

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