Category Archives: Pearland Proud!

Pearland native serves aboard Navy’s newest carrier


WEEMSNORFOLK, VA -– A 2007 Pearland High School graduate and Pearland native is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the aircraft carrier, PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

Petty Officer 2nd Class Robyn Graham-Weems is an aviation support equipment technician aboard the Ford-class aircraft carrier operating out of Norfolk, Virginia.

A Navy aviation support equipment technician is responsible for preserving and maintaining diesel hydraulic and pneumatic systems.

“Our rate is a tight knit community that takes care of each other,” said Graham-Weems.

Named after the 38th president, Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr., the Ford-class aircraft carrier is 1,092 feet long and hosts a wide array of quality of life improvements and state-of-the-art upgrades from a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. New technology, including a new reactor plant, propulsion systems, electric plant, Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), advanced arresting gear and integrated warfare systems enables the Navy to operate the ship with less manpower, contributing to the Navy saving approximately $4 billion in total ownership costs over the ship’s 50‐year life when compared to NIMITZ-class.

“I like being a part of the team on the newest Naval vessel,” said Graham-Weems.

Approximately 170 officers and 2000 enlisted men and women make up the ship’s company, each highly specialized and operating in a number of jobs ranging from managing shipboard telecommunications networks and damage control systems to maintaining machinery and weapons.  With more than 40 new or modified systems, Ford Sailors are unique in their training as many are among the first in the Fleet to train on and operate the ship’s cutting edge technology.  The crew continues to explore innovative training solutions as Sailors prepare to take ownership of equipment and systems from contractors and shipbuilders.

“The true weapon system of this ship is the crew,” said Capt. John F. Meier, Gerald R. Ford’s Commanding Officer. “Our Sailors are earning quite an impressive reputation on the waterfront for our passion, enthusiasm and dedication. There is no doubt this is a crew that is well led, trained and wholly committed to bringing this great ship into service.”

While Ford has yet to conduct its first mission abroad, those serving aboard this ship will experience things that most Sailors don’t get to, being a part of a the ship’s initial crew. The crew must be highly motivated and adapt quickly to changing conditions to ensure the ship is ready to defend America at all times when called upon. There are high expectations for this ship and its Sailors; however, the crew is thriving under pressure.

“Since joining the Navy, I have learned to take responsibility for my own and other’s actions,” said Graham-Weems. “I have also learned the importance of respecting and counting on the people I work with.”

As a member of the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, Graham-Weems and other Ford Sailors are excited to be a part of the crew that will take this advanced war-fighting vessel on its first voyage to protect this country on the world’s oceans.


Local boxing gym produces two professional fighters

Pearland has produced many athletes to be proud of. Just last year, the Little League All Stars went to the World Series for the second year in a row. Pearland High School graduate Fozzie Whitaker played with the Carolina Panthers in this year’s Super Bowl. However, one sport that produces stars, yet is often overlooked, is boxing and its “brother,” Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

Submission Boxing Academy (SBA) and Pearland Boxing, located at 3705 Halik Rd. #7, focuses on training professional Mixed Martial Arts fighters to compete in the Houston MMA Circuit and throughout the Southern United States. They also train professional fighters as well as up-and-coming amateurs.

Frank Flores and Gary Pena are the coaches at the Academy. “After getting injured in the Marine Corps, I could no longer compete in combat sports,” said Flores. “So I did the next best thing and started coaching fighters.”

The gym got its start in 2005 and is an affiliate of Puro Azteca Boxing Gym in Houston that Flores’ brother, Robert “El Jefe,” owns. “We were the starting the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) side of the boxing gym at Puro Azteca,” Flores said.

Flores’ brother introduced Flores to Gary Pena. “My brother brought Gary Pena in to start training boxers to fight professionally,” Flores said. “We have two pro fighters that Gary has worked with for many hours to make them top prospects in the Houston boxing arena.”

Pena got an early start in boxing. “My uncle was a pro fighter, and he never had a son,” Pena said. “My mom had three sons. My uncle left some gloves with us and it all began there. I was five years old. I’ve been coaching for 16 years. I have trained three national champions prior to coming to Submission Boxing Academy.”


Franke with Coaches Flores and Pena (Photo by Adriana Lopez)

One of the two pro fighters trained by Pena and Flores is William “Alex” Franke, 20, a Pearland resident who recently won all three of his fights in the Golden Gloves Senior Division for newcomers.

“Alex trained hard for a month and a half before the tournament, but he’s been boxing for three months,” Pena said. “Alex looked very strong in the first fight, stopping his opponent by Total Knock Out (TKO). He won his second fight by the judges’ unanimous decision, and in his final fight, he looked awesome.”

Franke gave some insight into his wins. “My opponent was little shorter than me, but he looked like a brick wall. This was my first fight ever, and it was his as well. I just overpowered him and ended up knocking him out,” Franke said. “In my second fight, we went all three rounds, and it was probably my worst fight. I had nothing in my stomach, but I won all three rounds.

“My third fight was probably the best fight that I had because I was doing exactly what Coach Gary was telling me to do. I was stepping to my right and rocking back in with my right, connecting my body shots. I probably did that 20 times. He just kept running into my jab and I kept hitting hard,” Franke added.


Ledet (Photo by Adriana Lopez)

On Saturday (Feb. 27), Alvin resident Justin “El Blanco” Ledet, 27, the second pro fighter training with Pena at the Academy, had his 6th professional MMA fight in Oklahoma City. Ledet’s professional record is 6-0; he has never lost a fight.

“I’ve been fighting professionally for seven years now,” said Ledet. “My fight in Oklahoma City went well. I ended up tapping the guy out in one minute and 40 seconds with a guillotine choke.”

While Franke and Ledet are pro fighters, anyone can train at the Academy. Whether it is for moving forward as a pro athlete or just to get a great workout, SBA can assist.

Submission Boxing Academy is open on weekdays from 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. For more information, stop by 3705 Halik Rd. #7 or call Coach Frank Flores at (832) 651-7118. The gym is the last unit in the second row of buildings in the back of the complex. SBA’s Facebook page may be found at

Former Pearland City Councilman and Little Brother earn spot in ‘Lift Up My Little’ campaign

56c51ec6bdee5.imageBig Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star Branch and RISE are pleased to announce “RISE Over Houston,” an exclusive evening of good cheer and cocktail flights commemorating the 66th Anniversary of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Houston.

The collaboration between RISE, a private flight-sharing service, and Big Brothers Big Sisters, a one-to-one mentoring organization, celebrates the gift of giving time back to oneself or to a child facing adversity.

Around 200 guests will be invited to enjoy delicious hors d’oeuvres, TESLA ridealongs, lively entertainment, and last but not least, a VIP experience of boarding a RISE plane for quick flights over the lights of Downtown Houston on February 20.

The highlight of the event will be an extra special flight for eight Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bigs (volunteer mentors) and Littles (children facing adversity) at 4:00 p.m. before the reception.

The uplifting flight is the culmination of a three-week, “Lift Up My Little” campaign where Bigs promoted their match story and asked their friends and family to sponsor their Little so that they have a chance to fly in a plane over Downtown Houston. The top eight fundraising matches will fly over Houston, and for many of the Littles, this flight will be their first time to ever board a plane and experience the joy of flying.

Former City Councilman Scott Sherman and his Little Brother raised enough money to be in the top eight.

“We were the fourth highest fundraisers,” said Sherman. “This is a great opportunity for Big Brothers to talk about the program. There are many more boys than girls that are waiting to be paired. The waiting list is in the hundreds.”

Sherman and his Little Brother have been paired since July 2015. “The program has had such a big impact on my life. I’d encourage anyone that has a heart for disadvantaged children to check it out,” he said.

This will be Sherman’s Little Brother’s second time on a plane.

Over $16,000 was raised by the volunteer mentors to help ensure more children from a waiting list of over 800 are matched with a positive mentor who will help enrich their life and encourage them to reach their highest potential through educational motivation, fun adventures, and overall, a safe and stable relationship.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring organization, provides children facing adversity, often those of single or low-income households or families where a parent is incarcerated or serving in the military, with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. This mission has been the cornerstone of the organization’s 66-year history in Greater Houston,” according to the website.

For more information on BBBS, please visit

Pearland SWAT Team members visit Pearland child with cancer

AlexSWATIn January, eight-year-old Pearland resident Alex Goodman was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. To help boost his spirits as he bravely fights the disease, friends of the Goodman family reached out to Pearland SWAT Officer Karl Fletcher and asked if he and members of the department’s SWAT team could visit Alex at Texas Children’s Hospital.

AlexHatOn Wednesday (Feb. 3), SWAT Team Members Officer Fletcher, Officer Daniel Herrera and Officer Trey DuRant visited Alex and presented him with a decommissioned tactical helmet affixed with one of the team’s patches. Also present were firemen from Houston Fire Department Station 18.

Alex was all smiles during the visit and the SWAT team may or may not have promised Alex a ride in the SWAT MRAP once he gets discharged from the hospital.

Officer Trey DuRant, speaking for the team, said, “We were happy and honored to be asked to participate in this event.”

To visit the community Facebook page called, “Warriors for Alex Goodman,” visit

Pearland grad heads to Super Bowl


Photo courtesy of the Carolina Panthers

Pearland has produced yet another athlete that has snagged the spotlight. Fozzy Whittaker, 26, a graduate of Pearland High School, is going to Super Bowl 50 with the Carolina Panthers to face the Denver Broncos on Feb. 7 in San Francisco.

The Carolina Panthers signed Whittaker on July 27, 2014 as a Running Back. Performing well in preseason, he made the initial 53-man roster, which was announced in August 2014.

On January 3 of this year, Whittaker scored a 39-yard touchdown in the third quarter of the Wild Card playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals, which helped the Panthers win that game 27-16, advancing them to the Divisional Playoffs.

Whittaker is 5’10” tall and weighs 205 lbs., making him a force to be reckoned with. After graduating from PHS, he attended the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a degree in Corporate Communications. He played 38 games for the UT Longhorn football franchise.

Veterans Day Walk funds presented to Pearland groups


This week, HIKE for Mental Health completed the distribution of the net proceeds from the Pearland Veterans Day Walk by presenting checks to two local Pearland organizations.

VFW Post 7109 received a total of $2,130 to support their efforts to become a more integral part of the Pearland community. Extra thanks to Jonathan, Maegan and many others who provided the BBQ lunch for the Veterans Day walkers!


HIKE for Mental Health also presented $1,600 to Dawn Lawless and the team at Counseling Connections for Change, a nonprofit counseling center in Pearland. They will use the money to continue their community educations programs. Last year, they provided suicide prevention workshops for Pearland schools. Thanks for Dawn, Pam and Charlotte for help with this year’s walk.


Nurse Rosa Klocksiem contacted HIKE for Mental Health several ago asking for help with materials for the unit’s patients, who include veterans as well as active duty service men and women suffering with PTSD and other inner challenges. They have raised money every Veterans Day since then to buy books, videos, pamphlets and other materials that Rosa needs.

These two distributions compete the disbursement of the net proceeds from the 2015 Pearland Veterans Day Walk, which began with sending much needed materials to the Behavioral Health floor of the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, TX, last week.

After the most recent materials arrived, Rosa sent the following note:

Dear Leo,

Some more packages arrived and I am sending you a photo of active duty staff that I am honored to work with. The ward is a locked unit for inpatient care to provide safety and structure for warriors in behavioral health crisis. All your donations help us to serve them. We would not have those therapeutic books to offer if it was not for you and your volunteers. Thank you so much!

With Utmost Respect and Appreciation,

We extend our thanks to the walkers, donors and sponsors, including MHI Compressor Corporation, Marvin Monk, the City of Pearland, Pearland City Councilman Tony Carbone, Pearland City Councilman Derrick Reed, Pearland City Councilman Gary Moore, Pearland City Councilman Keith Ordeneaux, Pearland City Councilman Greg Hill, Cooling Tower Depot, H-E-B, Glen & Linda Rider, Pearland Democrats, Nancy Kozanecki, The Ivy District, David L. Smith Realty/The Legacy Group, Stacy Adams, Buck Stevens, Matt Sebesta, Gringo’s Tex-Mex, and Mike’s Tri City Icehouse. We also thank the Kolache Shoppe and Maine-ly Sandwiches for providing snacks for our volunteers and exhibitors.

We are already starting to plan the 2016 walk. If you are interested in helping, please contact Leo at or call 603 801-5662.

Peña’s Donut Heaven & Grill Expands with Second Location

penas-300x250Pearland’s donut guru Ray Peña announces plans to expand on the success of his widely-known Peña’s Donut Heaven & Grill to include a second location. Set to open summer 2016 at 10555 Pearland Parkway, the new location will feature some of the more popular items Peña is known for along with a few surprises.

With a larger footprint sized at over 2,700 square feet, the new location places Peña closer to his initial roots where his first restaurant opened in 1996 near the Sagemont community. Guests will find top sellers including a la carte breakfast items including donuts, the cronut, kolaches, and tacos paired with a few new signature dishes.

Still in development, Peña is perfecting recipes for new dishes along the lines of shrimp & grits and chicken & waffles.   A line of coffees by Katz Coffee will be featured as well. Lunch service will include specialty hamburgers and milkshakes.

According to Peña, “the new location will become a premiere breakfast destination and continue to build on our philosophy of delivering local flavor…honoring our Mom and Pop approach to the business.”

Peña’s son Ryan will be at the helm of the new restaurant working alongside his father Ray to hone his skills. Peña is currently collaborating with a notable architect to design plans for the new place.

IMG_2693For now, guests can indulge in the Christmas themed donuts which have been flying off the shelf since their release at the current Pearland location at 11601 Shadow Creek Pkwy, Ste 103 and of course many of the dishes that have put Peña’s Donut Heaven and Grill on the map.



Source: Pearland CVB

Keep Pearland Beautiful wins National Award

KPB-website-header-mission-1024x171Keep Pearland Beautiful recently received the 2015 Affiliate Award of Excellence from the Keep America Beautiful national program.

Keep America Beautiful is a national nonprofit organization that inspires and educates people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment. We envision a country where every community is a clean, green, and beautiful place to live.

Keep America Beautiful nationally recognizes its partners and their volunteers for their efforts to create a more beautiful, cleaner, and improved environment through new technologies, improved waste handling and public space stewardship.

Judges look at each affiliate’s activities in beautification and community greening, litter prevention and community revitalization, recycling and waste reduction, and environmental education for the award.


Pearland Fire Chief receives state honor



Front row: Shirley Scholz, RN and Vance Riley; Back Row: Karen Pickard, RN, Jodie Harbert, Dr. Bobby Greenberg, Ryan Matthews, Dr. Jeff Beeson, Judge Mike DeLoach, Mick Click, RN. Missing are Linda Dickerson, Dr. Brian Eastridge, Dr. Alan Tyroch, Dr. Robert Vezetti and Nora Castaneda and James Williams.

Pearland Fire Chief Vance Riley was recently honored for his 12 years of service on the Texas Governor’s EMS and Trauma Advisory Council (GETAC). Chief Riley has spent the last six years as the Chair of GETAC. In this role, he provided leadership and guidance to the other 14 Council members as well as the more than 150 subcommittee members serving on 10 different subcommittees.

Riley was first appointed by Governor Rick Perry to the Council in 2004 at the recommendation of the Texas Fire Chiefs Association and then reappointed to the Council in 2010 in the position of Chair by Governor Perry.

He also received a certificate from Governor Greg Abbott’s office in recognition and appreciation for his years of meritorious service the state of Texas as a member of GETAC.

“It has been an honor, a privilege and a blessing to have served these dozen years alongside the most passionate and brilliant trauma surgeons, physicians, nurses and paramedics in Texas. I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity,” said Riley.

GETAC was created by the 77th Texas Legislature in 2001 to:  Review EMS and Trauma rules and recommend changes in those rules to the Texas Department of State Health Services; assess the need for emergency medical services in the rural areas of the state; and develop a strategic plan for: (a) refining the educational requirements for certification and maintaining certification as emergency medical services personnel; and (b) developing emergency medical services and trauma care systems (trauma hospitals) in Texas.

To learn more about Pearland Fire, visit

Officer of the Quarter: Robert DaSilva

Congratulations to Officer DaSilva for being voted by your peers as Officer of the Quarter! The Above and Beyond Award recognizes officers who are active in the community, above and beyond their regular duties.

Thank you for all you do!

%d bloggers like this: