Cape Kids — City Leaders: Dana Alvarez, lifetime Cape Coral resident and youth theater instructor
“Cape Coral in the ’90s was definitely a place where kids seemed to always be playing outside; whether it be riding bikes, hanging out in a tree house, swimming, going to the Yacht Club beach, or just playing in the street.
“I lived on a small lake for some time, so I honestly spent a lot of time playing in the mangroves and catching fiddler crabs and minnows (and avoiding alligators!) or the favorite destination of summers — Sun Splash. I actually worked as a lifeguard there as a teenager, along with 100 other high school students each summer. It felt like the pinnacle of ‘Cape Life’ over there. The Coralwood Cinemas was the place to be on Friday nights as well. I went to Cape Elementary, which was Cape Coral’s first school, but by the early ’90s, definitely not the only school. I graduated from Cape High in 2004. One big creative outlet that still stands today and continues to provide performing arts entertainment and opportunities is Cultural Park Theatre. I spent a lot of time there performing as a child, taught camps there as a teen, and continue getting involved over there now.
“I first started to notice a big change when Veterans Parkway and Bridge were first built, and not too long after when I was in high school, they started transplanting homes off Santa Barbara by Cape High to make way for what would become Midpoint Commons. It was fascinating to pass by that area every day on the way to school and before we knew it, there was a Target, McDonalds, Publix, restaurants and more. Seems silly, but it was a big deal! That transformed the area a bit and a few years later, businesses on Pine Island Road exploded. Another major change was the amount of schools that went up in the area. We had two high schools to choose from and now there are so many choices. Personally for me, the City of Cape Coral Charter Schools being established in 2005 was a major deal. I ended up teaching at Oasis Elementary from 2008-2017. The charter schools were truly such a special addition to Cape schools. We have also seen a major growth in youth programs like for sports and the arts. I am happy to be the theater director at a studio that opened only four years ago, Melody Lane Performing Arts Center; and to see the real interest in children’s programs in our city. We are happy to keep students in our area to meet their needs.
“It is pretty remarkable that in such a relatively short time, this city has experienced so much growth! There are many cities in the U.S. that have been around for hundreds of years. But it did not take long to transform swampland into a bustling place.
“I really have enjoyed living in Cape Coral for most of my life, which is why I stayed and chose to start a family here. Cape Coral has a great balance of small town and big city feel. We have great schools, lots of activities, many fun opportunities within short driving distance, and that tropical living. There are a lot of wonderful family businesses, restaurants, and big stores. The neighborhoods are pretty and well maintained.
“I suppose I wish that with this kind of exponential growth, the city can really accommodate everyone. We obviously have lots of space in the north Cape, but meanwhile, we have areas of town that rightfully needed to be expanded, roads widened and such. There is a lot of necessary construction always going on in response to this growth, and we all hope it won’t be endless. I also would love to see more of a variety of restaurants and nightlife activities. Would love to see more opportunities to take advantage of the Salt Life of living on the water, near the beach, near the river — and have more experiences we can all take advantage of. There is still so much potential in this beautiful city.”
— Compiled by CJ HADDAD