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Grad keeps family going
Mexican-born student learns fast at DalhartBy Nicole King
DALHART - When Dalhart High School senior Luis Cuellar walks across the stage May 30, it will be the culmination of a long journey that started six years ago.
The Cuellar family moved to Dalhart from Mexico in 2002 and Luis entered the eighth grade.
"When I first came to the U.S., it was difficult because of the language barrier," Cuellar said through an interpreter. "School was different here. The classes are all in one building.
"In Mexico, we have to go to different buildings and there are shorter hours in Mexico. It was harder for me to learn in Mexico than here. Here, I would push myself to read and learn more. There, I would just listen to the teacher."
Jeanne Rentfro, an English and English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher, has helped Cuellar overcome the language barrier.
"He is so intelligent and would really try hard," she said. "He's the kind of kid that when he had down time in the class, he would get the encyclopedia to teach himself."
Cuellar, 19, enjoys studying geometry and playing soccer. The school doesn't have a soccer team, so he joined the football team as the kicker.
Football played a big part in his high school success. Rentfro encouraged him to get involved.
"He really struggled when he was a freshman," Rentfro said. "He played soccer and was really great at it. I thought it would be an opportunity for him to learn English."
Cuellar took to the sport right away.
"I was the kicker, so it was kind of like kicking the soccer ball," he said. "I felt good when I played every Friday. With American (football), I feel like there's a lot of adrenaline and it's something I like. There's no contact (being the kicker). I don't like a lot of contact."
Laura Amaya, co-sponsor of the Spanish Club, said football helped Cuellar in several ways.
"After he started playing football, I think that's when he opened up more and it helped him with his English," she said. "He's very respectful, a very hard worker. He has a good drive in him. I would really like to see him go on to college and be a soccer coach."
Cuellar works as a mechanic at a local farm. His mother, stepfather, 14- and 17-year-old brothers and his 9-year-old sister rely on him for financial support.
"I have to work for my family," he said. "I was going to go to college, but my stepdad went back to Mexico and then came back and is now out of work, so I have to work to support my family."
Cuellar dreams of going to college, possibly in Mexico, and study industrial engineering.
"I still haven't finished learning," he said.
He encourages his younger siblings to stay in school.
"My sister will. I don't know about my brothers," Cuellar said. "My younger brothers have wanted to quit school and seeing me stay in school has encouraged them to stay in school."
Amaya said Cuellar has had more of an impact than he realizes.
"He's inspired more than just one kid," she said. "He gets along with everyone and talks to everyone. He's encouraged a lot more people than he knows."
Celebrate Education is a yearlong community project to encourage lifelong learning and help raise the education level in the Texas Panhandle.
Editor's Note: The Globe-News is profiling a student a day from May 9-29 as part of its 2008 graduation coverage. Students were nominated by Globe-News readers.
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