celebrate education - brought to you by the amarillo globe-news
 

Grad keeps family going

Mexican-born student learns fast at Dalhart

By 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.

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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