By Parker Leipzig and Nene Narh-Mensah
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify that Enzo’s parents, not just his father, are starting a foundation in his honor.
If the color yellow could be personified, it would have been Enzo Alvarenga, Katie Maher said.
Maher, a former Left Bench anchor and reporter, said Enzo could “light up a room” during the time she knew him. They met last fall when Enzo introduced himself at the end of the first Left Bench meeting of the academic year.
“Not everybody does that,” said Maher, a University of Maryland alum who graduated from the journalism college in May. “So that automatically made him stand apart.”
Enzo was struck and killed while riding his bicycle on Old Georgetown Road on June 1. He was 18. A rising sophomore journalism major at the University of Maryland when he died, Enzo had ambitions of being a sports journalist with a focus on soccer.
He was born on Oct. 11, 2003, in Washington, D.C., to a Salvadoran father and a French-Argentine mother, said his father Carlos Alvarenga, an adjunct professor at the business school.
The family lived in the Bethesda area for Enzo’s whole life.
Enzo attended the Rochambeau French International School, a French school in Bethesda from age three to his high school graduation, Carlos said. He spoke French, Spanish and English fluently.
A lifelong sports fan, Enzo grew up watching basketball, soccer and football. He was a Celtics, Manchester United and Ravens fan.
He also loved art, particularly painting and graffiti. He was a fan of artists Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat. Enzo went to New York recently to see the Francesca Busca solo exhibition.
Originally, Enzo wanted to go into sports management, Carlos said. After a trip to see Manchester United play live in 2019, Enzo approached his father asking about pursuing sports broadcasting as a job.
Carlos, a former news journalist, said he didn’t steer his son toward journalism before this trip.
“When you’re a journalist, you don’t ever want to tell your child to become a journalist because it’s sort of tipping the scale a bit,” Carlos said.
Still, Carlos supported his son’s career choice and encouraged him to pursue it with the same passion that athletes do.
“Sports is amazing because it shows people pushing themselves to do what may seem impossible. And the idea of working all your life for a moment is a remarkable thing,” Carlos said. “When we talked about school, I would tell him ‘You have to think like an athlete … so that there’s a moment … when all that hard work pays off’.”
Rob Wells, an associate professor at this university, taught the class that Enzo took in spring 2022.
Wells said Enzo handled constructive criticism on class assignments well and worked hard to improve throughout the semester.
Adjunct journalism professor Ben Worsley also commended Enzo for his work ethic.
Worsley taught the news videography class Enzo took this past semester and was pleased with Enzo’s engagement in the course.
“He always made really good points during our critique sessions for our class, which we had pretty often,” Worsley said. “His work was really good. He was really talented.”
Wells also got to know Enzo’s personality during class and said he was a “character.” He was comfortable expressing himself in a unique way, Wells said.
“He had a pretty awesome afro and came in wearing different clothes than the rest of the students, which I really admired,” Wells said. “He had a pretty extensive sticker collection on his laptop and did some kind of trippy art, so he was definitely not the typical student that I had.”
Enzo’s friend Elana Renbaum was also a student in Wells’ class. Renbaum, a rising sophomore journalism major, also said Enzo had an impeccable sense of style.
“Always dressed to the nines and rocked it every single time,” Renbaum said.
Enzo’s distinctive style with his trademark Ray-Ban sunglasses, though very unique to him, likely came easily, Carlos said.
“He really had a style that he had developed for himself, so even on camera … I don’t think he thought about it too much,” Carlos said. “It just sort of came naturally to him.”
Though fairly quiet at times, Enzo always opened up and joked around with his friends, Carlos said. He remembered whenever he drove Enzo and his friends somewhere, they would always be cracking jokes in the back of the car.
“We know him as this little shy kid. But I think on campus he was a different person. And it surprised me how many people reacted to him,” Carlos said.
Renbaum said Enzo was always thinking about his friends and what he could do to make their day better, including making them laugh.
“He’s the funniest guy I know, and it’s not even a debate,” Renbaum said. “He would always light up a room whether it’s some snarky, under his breath comment or just an absolute one-liner and it’s just perfect.”
She also said Enzo was the epitome of a friend.
“Nothing bad can happen when Enzo’s there with you,” she said.
Enzo is survived by his father Carlos Alvarenga, his mother Patricia Bibes, his stepmother Dima Hammoud and his younger brother Dino Alvarenga.
Enzo’s parents plan to start a foundation in their son’s honor to help students pursuing sports journalism pay for college. To Carlos, there’s no doubt in his mind that helping people would have been his son’s life’s work.
“It’s not what Enzo would have wanted. It’s what Enzo would have done,” he said.