Neill Carvalho goes back to his roots, honoring the St. Joseph coaches and teachers who shaped him long ago.
The 1984 St. Joe graduate played baseball and basketball and carries the life lessons he learned from the late Jimmy Correa and Rod Cambra.
He grew up a Cardinals fan watching the school’s last preclassification BIIF basketball championship in 1974 and waiting to attend the small private school himself.
In the Curious case of where are they now?, Carvalho, 54, is a high school teacher and coach living in Phoenix, Ore., where wildfires ravaged close to a million acres.
Fortunately, his house was spared. Carvalho and his wife, Ellen, a retired teacher, had a good scare though.
“We’re in a little holding pattern right now. We’ll do a restart on Wednesday,” he said. “We have about 650 to 675 kids, but a lot lost their homes. We’d like to get the kids back into school for some normalcy.
“It’s important to lean on those lessons from my mentors about compassion and empathy. One of my stronger points is connecting with kids.”
Both his parents, Ken, a plumber, and Nyala, a nurse at Hilo Hospital, went to St. Joe, and Neill followed the family tradition.
After he graduated, Carvalho went to Southern Oregon University and lived with his father. (His parents divorced when he was in the fifth grade.)
Carvalho walked on to the Raiders’ football team, which played on the NAIA level and experienced first hand the lesson of determination, something he would pass along to his players.
He’s now the Phoenix High School junior varsity football coach and an assistant on the varsity. He’s been teaching for 28 years, the last 23 at Phoenix.
“Walking on to the team gave me confidence,” he said. “It was the best thing I ever did. I tell my players if you want to go to college, ‘Do something. Get your grades up. Figure out how to do it.’
“I try to instill that hope in everybody. When I played back in high school, I wanted to be like coach Correa. That’s how I coach. I pay it forward.”
It’s not obvious, but his first name is a conversation starter. There aren’t a lot of Neills with two “Ls” in their first name. That’s his mom’s maiden name.
Carvalho was thrilled when he was a Cardinal to have Cambra coach him in basketball and Correa as his baseball coach.
“I always think about teaching. Every time I refocus, I think how Mr. Cambra and Mr. Correa would do stuff,” he said. “It was a good time going to that school. My parents went to it. It’s always been there.”
Carvalho came back to Hilo for a year and taught at St. Joseph. But he wanted to get his teaching degree and later got a masters in education.
“I like seeing how the kids grow. They come in as freshmen, and a lot of times they’ll come back. I have five different kids I’ve taught, and they’ve come back and been hired as assistants. I want to give back.”
After he got certified, Carvalho landed his first job at Butte Falls, about 40 miles from his home.
There he wound up as the baseball coach. He leaned on the lessons learned from Correa, how he ran practices and what he taught his players.
“We beat our crosstown rivals in my first year. It was our only win, but it was against a big rival,” he said. “I could walk around town and people wouldn’t chase me out.”
Back in the day, his dad was a race driver. So while there’s still a little time, Carvalho is going back to his roots again.
“I race go-carts, too,” he said.