Mr. Mendez: The Superhero Behind the Uniform


Chris Mendez

Mr. Mendez snaps a selfie with his daughter as she wraps her arms around him.

Emily Ito , Editor-in-Chief

At 7:50 AM, students run through the gates and across the quad, rushing to avoid the embarrassment of walking into class late. As they sprint through campus, they see a tall man with a friendly smile as he happily trims the hedges by the counseling office. They return his warm greeting with a grin of their own and proceed to their first period without a second thought. 

From an outsider’s perspective, Chris Mendez (Staff) is just the pleasant staff member who maintains the beautiful YLHS campus. But the man at the planter is so much more than a mere groundskeeper. Mr. Mendez is an individual bursting with talent and filled with compassion. This groundskeeper is not purely his profession, he is a man with so much dimension and an extraordinary story to tell.  

When Mr. Mendez returns home after a long day of work, he trades in his shears and gloves for sharpies and paint brushes. He has created a slew of incredible art pieces that range from elaborate Disney cups, to exquisite wood burnings, intricate drawings, and beautiful paintings. Mendez opened his own custom design company, sharing his artistry with the rest of the world. Each month, he is commissioned to create around 20-30 Disney inspired cartoons on reusable Starbucks cups. His company allows him to turn his ability and interest into a part-time profession. 

Mendez discovered his passion for art when he was only five years old. As a child with an aptitude for drawing, his talent did not go unnoticed. His textbooks and desks were covered with the products of his creativity. Rather than punishing him, Mendez’s teachers would call his parents in to show them how gifted their son was and encourage them to enroll Mendez in art classes. 

While his role as an artist is an important element of his identity, he also proudly wears his title as a father and a husband. When he comes home, he makes sure to focus purely on his family. He is 100% present as he plays with his two daughters and spends time with his wife. He is a caring dad and a wonderful spouse, supporting and loving his family unconditionally. Only after the members of his household are sound asleep does he begin work on his artistic projects. By separating his work, home life, and art, he ensures that he can be completely invested in the task or activity at hand. 

These different facets of his life are mainly exclusive from each other, but they cross over in many respects. For example, his work and art assist his family, his family inspires his art, and his art translates into his work. 

His job as a groundskeeper is not purely to pay the bills and support his family. Mendez genuinely enjoys what he does. For him, it’s “not yard work, it’s art. [He] get[s] to take this ugly palm tree and clean it up,” turning it into something beautiful. In addition, his profession is a physical necessity for him. Mendez was unfortunately born with a bone deficiency, an impediment that requires him to be active and constantly exercising. Without a job that requires him to use muscle strength daily, “his muscle deteriorates.” Becoming a groundskeeper means lifting heavy branches and utilizing 30 pound trimmers every day, making it the perfect profession for the artist. 

This muscle deficiency plays a major role in Mendez’s life. Beyond the ways in which it has impacted his job choice, it also influences his art and home life. His oldest daughter was diagnosed with the same mutation on her X-chromosome as Mr. Mendez. The disorder delays muscle growth, meaning that his daughter faces the same challenges that he experienced in his youth. The deficiency not only impedes on one’s strength, but his or her speech as well. 

Understanding the struggles of this obstacle, Mendez and his wife have made sure to provide the help their daughter needs. With speech and physical therapy, their daughter has been able to grow and overcome so much. She began with 20% intelligibility and is now at 70%.

Supporting her and the extra help she needs has been a major motivator in the start-up of Mendez’s design company as well as his most recent project. 

Mendez recently entered the worldwide Vans Custom Culture Art Contest. The object of the competition is to create a shoe design on a pair of Vans that will be judged by a public vote and an expert panel. The winner will have their shoes produced by Vans and will receive a prize of $25,000. 

He has entered six different designs, but has emphasized one particular pair of shoes that he hopes will win. The design he is promoting has a lot of personal importance, making it a project that he holds close to his heart. Displayed is an old-fashioned pocket watch with the time on the clock being when he got married. He has entered the contest in hopes of winning and using the prize money to fund his daughter’s therapy. 

All the profit he makes from his company and the money he would receive from the Vans contest would go towards giving his daughter “the opportunity to live a normal life by helping her strengthen her muscles and her mind.” 

With the money he has made from the company he started, his family has been able to pay for the additional help their daughter requires. Without all the therapy, “she would be lost. It would be a lifelong struggle.” 

Given the impact that the deficiency has had on his personal life and his daughter’s, Mendez has also decided that if he were to win the contest, he will donate a portion of the proceeds to the organizations that have assisted his daughter through her difficult situation. He wants to make sure that people with the same obstacle can receive the help that his daughter has, regardless of his or her financial background. 

Mendez has proven himself as a man of many talents. Yet beyond how impressive his incredible artistic ability is, he is also undeniably compassionate, resilient, and sincere. He has been faced with many challenges and has been forced to overcome so many obstacles in his life. Yet despite the struggles he has endured, he still maintains unwavering optimism and appreciation for the things in his life. Mr. Mendez is so much more than a groundskeeper. He is a husband, a father, a friend, an artist, an inspiration, and above all, a hero.

Please support Mr. Mendez. You can vote now at…

Also follow his instagram @1mcd  and check out his work at