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On Saturday, March 18, guests and honorees will gather at the San Juan Oaks Golf & Country Club for the annual Baler Hall of Fame Fest. The event is hosted by the Baler Education Foundation, which works to support and enhance all the education programs at San Benito High School. The luncheon doubles as a fundraiser for the school and a celebration honoring individuals who have given back to the community. 

Irma Cabrera-Albright, a resource specialist and teacher at San Benito High School, also helps coordinate the Baler Education Foundation. As an organizer of the Fest and as a high school teacher, she has a unique perspective into the wide-ranging effects of the annual event.

“I get to see both sides,” says Cabrera-Albright. “I get to honor individuals who have impacted our students, and I also get to see the benefits on campus.”  Cabrera-Albright said was moved recently by  Holocaust storyteller Jerry Falek, who visited the SBHS campus and spoke to the students. “His art was storytelling, and it was a unique experience that our students wouldn’t have had otherwise if not for the grants provided by the Foundation.”

At this year’s Baler Hall of Fame Fest, eight individuals will be inducted into the Baler Hall of Fame and honored for their valuable contributions to the school. Those individuals are Manuel Yuste, Al Castellano, David Baumgartner, Evelyn Muro, Frank Perez, Roy Sims, Emily Crawford and Ray Rodriguez.

Manuel Yuste graduated from San Benito High School in 1948. After receiving a Combat Infantry Badge, the Korean Medal of Honor, and after nominations for two Bronze Stars, Yuste came back to Gilroy and finished agricultural school. He then spent seven years sharing his agricultural expertise with migrant workers. He has always been an active volunteer at San Benito High School, in addition to becoming vice president of the San Benito Babe Ruth League, and serving as a Little League coach for 30 years.

Al Castellano and his family first moved from New Mexico to the California Central Coast to pick crops. He graduated from local schools and worked in the aerospace industry until 1970. After winning big in the lottery, Castellano established the Castellano Family Foundation, which is dedicated to helping Latino youth and other youth of color achieve their goals. The foundation has awarded grants to more than 170 nonprofits, and given more than $4.6 million in the Santa Clara County area.

David Baumgartner graduated from San Benito High School in 1960. He worked in real estate for 35 years while also becoming a Rotary Club member and the club’s former president. Baumgartner is an occasional astronomy teacher at Tres Pines and Sacred Heart schools, a member of the the San Benito Oriana Chorale, and a “Make-a-Wish” softball coach. In his free time, Baumgartner attends Hollister Parks and Recreation Committee meetings and was chair of the committee for three years.

Evelyn Muro is a former SBHS board trustee and has chaired 15 high school accreditation teams for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. She was the superintendent of North County Joint Union School District and Spring Grove School. At San Benito High School, Muro helped develop the first staff development program and also a new teacher in-service program. 

Frank Perez is a 1987 graduate of San Benito High School where he was MVP in track and field. He also played football for Santa Clara University. After receiving his teaching credentials from Chapman University, Perez returned to his high school alma mater as a teacher of social science, world studies and Chicano history. He has coached football and basketball, and writes about local history and other topics for BenitoLink.

Roy Sims graduated from San Benito High School in 2000 and was an employee since 2011 as a technology technician and coordinator of data, assessment and information systems. He’s now technology director at the San Benito Office of Education, and was recently a member of the Hollister City Council. Sims is also a semi-pro athlete. In 2016, he won a gold medal at the National Sumo Tournament, and a bronze medal at the World Sumo Tournament.

Emily Crawford has been volunteering at San Benito High School since 2000 where she is dubbed “Decorator Volunteer Extraordinaire.” She’s decorated several Proms, ASB banquets, Senior Parents Nights, Benefit Balls and class floats. She received a philanthropy award for work with the Baler Education Foundation and has also decorated the Hall of Fame Fest for 13 years.

Ray Rodriguez was an SBHS trustee from 2008 to 2016 and president of the school board for two years. He is a founder and member of the Baler Education Foundation and initiated the Baler Brick Endowment Building Initiative. He is actively involved with the Boy Scouts of America, and has served as Cub Scout den leader and day camp director. He was also a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens. In 2013, Rodriguez was the 30th Assembly District Veteran of the Year.

Cabrera-Albright also likes one final aspect of the Baler Hall of Fame Fest. In addition to raising neeed funds for the school, and thanking important members in the school’s community, the Fest also provides an opportunity for alumni to reconnect with their former classmates.

“Once a Baler, always a Baler,” reminds Cabrera-Albright. “This event is a great place for the past to meet the present.” 

For those interested in attending the Fest, tables are available and tickets cost $55 per adult. Guest will receive $20 worth of raffle tickets with each admission ticket. Tickets can be purchased at the Student Payment Center at San Benito High School — 1220 Monterey St. — and at Postal Graphics on Airline Highway in the Nob Hill Shopping Center. You can also call (831) 261-0884 to reserve tickets for pick-up at will-call prior to the event.