Alan Alcantara spent Christmas Day unlike most kids in this country. His parents weren't around to celebrate a holiday children look forward to each year.
On this day, his mother worked a double shift and his father worked on returning to his family. This was the second straight year Adan missed Christmas with his four kids and wife.
Alcantara said since his father's deportation to Mexico 16 months ago that he's had to become the man of the house. Alcantara says he has assumed that role since he was 15.
His first year as a high school student at Newport Harbor he dealt with more than just his studies and playing on the boys' soccer team. It was at the start of his ninth-grade year that he said the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency deported his father, an undocumented immigrant.
"It's been tough on the family," said Alcantara, adding that every couple of weeks he talks on the phone with his father, who lives in Toluca, near Mexico City. "He always tells me, 'You know what you have to do.' I have to step up."
Last month, Alcantara turned 16, making him old enough to work. With the family struggling financially and living in a one-bedroom apartment in Costa Mesa, he said his mom, Paula, asked him to look for a job.
Alcantara said on Monday, when he returns to school, he will seek a counselor out for advice on getting a work permit. Then he will begin his job search.
A job will make Alcantara busier and he's fine with it. He has shown in his first two years at Newport Harbor that he can handle a lot. He excels in the classroom and on the field.
When it comes to his grades, he says he's superstitious, never wanting to find out his grade-point average until the end of the school year. He finished perfect as a freshman, saying that he earned a 4.0.
He's halfway through his sophomore year. He says he feels good about how he's doing. The reasons for Alcantara's success are simple if you ask his coach, Juan Mares.
"He works really hard. He's respectful. He shows up ready to learn," Mares said.
"Last year, he didn't miss any practices or games. He won our Ironman award. I wish I had more players like him. Every coach wants players like Alan. He's very coachable and very smart."
The position Alcantara plays for the Sailors is midfielder. It's the part of the field where matches are decided.
So far, Alcantara has helped Newport Harbor get off to an 8-5-3 start, its best start in Mares' three seasons in charge. The team has beaten strong opponents such as Saddleback and Baldwin Park, ranked No. 2 and No. 6, respectively, in the CIF Southern Section Division 5 poll.
Alcantara's play has been vital to the success.
Last week, he led the Sailors to a fifth-place finish at the Marina tournament. Their biggest triumph was a 2-1 result against Los Alamitos, ranked No. 9 in Division 1. Mares expects the Griffins to contend for a Sunset League title and the result showed Newport Harbor can compete with one of the league's upper-echelon teams.
During the five games, Alcantara recorded three goals and earned all-tournament honors. His coaches and teammates have seen how the 5-foot-7, 130-pounder can affect a match with his vision, dribbling, passing, scoring and defense.
His mother hasn't been able to watch Alcantara play much.
He understands why she cannot show up to his matches, or his younger brother Kelvin's junior varsity matches. She's usually working as a nurse's assistant at night.
"She takes on many double shifts to provide for the family," Alcantara said. "I'm grateful that she's there for us. My dad is trying to get his papers fixed, so he can get back to this country. We miss him.