They may play different sports at St. Paul High School — volleyball for her, football for him — but Hannah Tostado and Alexis Reyes share an important connection: their appreciation for faith, family and the opportunities of Catholic school education.
“My whole life wouldn’t be possible without God,” said Tostado, twice an All-Del Rey League middle hitter from St. Paul’s girls’ volleyball team, “and I want to share that faith with others. My religion teachers teach me so much about God, and it makes me want to learn more.”
Added Reyes, an All-Angelus League senior lineman for the Swordsmen’s grid squad, “Catholic school is more family-oriented. In public school I felt like I was just a number, but at St. Paul I feel like they care about my life, on and off the field.”
In addition to being top student-athletes for their Santa Fe Springs high school, Tostado and Reyes are also involved in service projects that allow them to show their appreciation by giving back to the community. That starts with St. Paul’s annual March for Hunger (scheduled Dec. 3 this year), which takes its participants on a 26-mile trek through some of greater Los Angeles’ poorest and richest neighborhoods, raising funds for and awareness of those who are hungry.
“It’s been a great experience,” said Tostado. “Walking 26 miles to raise money for the homeless and hungry helps us appreciate how grateful we need to be for what we have, and I am so happy to do it.”
“It was kind of unreal to do it, going from really poor to really rich neighborhoods,” noted Reyes. “But having practically the whole school participate encourages us all to keep going, because we know we can make a difference.”
Both believe that strong family support has made a difference in their lives. Tostado was born into a Catholic family with three older brothers — her mom Yvette works in accounting, her dad Mark with the L.A. City Fire Department — and attended St. Bruno School in Whittier from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“My teammates, my coaches and especially my family give me so much support,” said Tostado, an All-CIF Division 7 first team selection a year ago. “I am blessed to have such a tremendous amount of people in my life who will always support me in all that I do, and always push me hard to do my best.”
Reyes — raised by his widowed mom, Virginia, with help from his older sister Lizabeth, a student at Cal State Dominguez Hills — transferred from public school to St. John of God School in Norwalk in seventh grade. The ongoing support from family and friends has inspired him to do the same, on and off the field.
“My mom is a domestic abuse survivor,” he said quietly, which is why he joined St. Paul’s S-club to raise money for women’s safe havens and help empower women who have been in abusive relationships. “It gets me mad when I see someone going through what my mom went through, and I want to help.”
Tostado enjoys being part of St. Paul’s program to help foreign exchange students feel comfortable on campus. “It’s a great experience,” she smiled. “You not only get to help them out, you learn from them, and you make new friends.”
Tostado and Reyes are currently helping lead their teams toward what they hope will be seasons that last deep into the playoffs.
“I love how competitive our sport is, I love the intensity, and we have a really good team,” said Tostado, co-captain of the No. 1-ranked Division 5 team as of Oct. 2. “Our coach [John Van Deventer] tells us we have targets on our backs, so we push each other to work harder. It definitely helps to be part of a team like this.”
The St. Paul football team entered Angelus League play last week in the top 10 of Division 5, and Reyes — who didn’t play football until his freshman year — believes the Swordsmen “have the ability to do really well. I like the brotherhood of football; you have friends everywhere to support you, and we make each other work harder.”
Post-high school, Reyes hopes to obtain a degree in engineering. “Math comes easily to me,” he said, “so I’ve looked at engineering schools like Cal Berkeley, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Cornell and Cal Poly Pomona. And if I can play football, that’s good, too.”
Tostado has made a verbal commitment to Concordia University in Irvine. “I like how it is a small school, which I am used to,” she said, “and when I first stepped onto Concordia’s campus, I felt like this was the one for me.”
She may major in kinesiology, “because I love to learn about human biology, and we have a good science department at St. Paul. But I also love to teach kids how to play volleyball, so I may go into teaching.”
In the meantime, both students will continue to teach, and lead, by example, strongly committed to their Catholic faith.
“All I do is through the goodness of God,” said Reyes, active in St. Paul’s campus ministry. “And if I can do it with God’s help, I know others can, too.”