Features

Behind North’s most storied security guard: Mark Royster

By: Megan Leung & Aashika Mehta

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Royster with students at an event. He has been part of North’s faculty since the school originally opened 23 years ago. Photo Credit: Mark Royster

Q: What’s your official title?

A: Security. At one time I was called “Chief of Security,” but it was really just a thing that they say. There has always just been two of us. Al and I have been together for a while now, but I’ve had several other security partners before him.

Q: Why did you decide to retire / How did you know it was time to retire?

A: I’ve done a lot of years, and, despite what some people may believe, I’m not getting any younger. My wife has done a lot of years as well, and she’s ready to retire, so I’m ready to retire. I think it is time.

Q: How many years have you worked here at North?

A: I’ve been here at North for twenty-three years. But I worked for five years in Trenton. It’s been close to thirty years for me, doing high school security. I’ve seen a lot of kids come through—good, bad.

Q: How did you end up at High School North from the Trenton High school?

A: The first building principal was a woman named Barbara Masanas. She had worked at South as an assistant principal, and my wife was a health and physical education teacher at South. I’d come visit my wife now and then when I had free time, and I’d come in uniform. Masanas took a liking to me, and our relationship grew. When they gave her this building, I was sought after to come here. I was the original security that opened the building, and I’ve been here ever since. There are a few teachers here now that have been here as long as I have, but no one has been here longer than me. I even have some pictures from those first few years.

Q: How do you think North has changed over the course of time you have been here?

A: The focus of this school has always been on education, athletics, and many other different programs. The girls seem more athletic than the boys that we have coming in—in certain sports.

Q: Why do you think that is?

A: I don’t know, there must be something in the milk.   

Q: What are your retirement plans?

A: The wife and I want to travel more. We’ve traveled a lot with the kids, but we want to travel now with each other. Our kids are grown, so we are trying to do things that we couldn’t do before. That’s about it. Our plans can change, but it’s to get a spot in Florida, let the sun hit us.

Q: Where in Florida?

A: It flip-flops, but right now, we’re looking at the Clearwater area.

Q: What will you miss most about the school?

A: The kids—the interaction. It’s crazy but when I’m off, I love being off, but I miss the interaction with the kids, and watching the kids grow from wide-eyed little freshmen to young adults as seniors. I’ll miss that. It’ll be an adjustment.

Q: What will you miss the least?

A: Getting up in the morning to get here.

Q: What are some memorable moments from your time here?

A: Watching the kids’ growth, seeing the kids achieve certain things in sports and in academics, watching one young lady win the Olympics. Rebecca Soni never swam here, but it was exciting watching her swim [at the Beijing Summer Olympics] and being able to say, “yeah I knew her.”

Q: As you look back on your time here, what are some other things that you enjoyed?

A: One of the joys of working here and of just being here is that I got to see some of the teachers you guys have now as kids, coming through here. For example, Torralba. I see a lot of the ways that these teachers have changed. It wasn’t like I could look at them as kids and say, “hey, that kids going to be a teacher,” but I’m glad I’ve gotten to watch them grow and see the ways they have changed. I’m not saying I’ve had a hand in their growth, but I’d like to think that I had something to do with it—some input here and there. One of the good things about doing this is that I always try to be fair. It’s business, not personal. But it’s great having the kids that have graduated years ago come back excited to see me, kids who appreciate the things I have done, whether or not I gave them Saturdays, or forced them to go back to class. It’s also rewarding to get to cheer for athletes from many different sports. Lacrosse players, field hockey players—I had no idea what field hockey was, I had never seen field hockey growing up, but I get to cheer for them. I’m excited when they win. Lacrosse, basketball, football, soccer, tennis. I always try to tell the athletes that it’s not about whether you win or lose. It’s about how you play. If you put everything you have out there, and you lose, you can feel good about yourself.

Q: Anything else to add? Any parting messages?

A: It’s going to be sad to have to walk away. Whether I go this year, or next year, or in a couple years, retirement is inevitable. Am I excited about going? Yes. But am I also sad? Of course. It’s like graduation. Every year when the seniors leave, I’m sad to see them go, but I’m happy for their futures. I’m going to be sad, but I’m going to be happy. I know that I’ve done the best I could and even though I only have two biological sons, throughout the years I think I’ve had a hand in the growth of thousands of kids who have come through this building.

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