Hard work, perseverance pay off for Tellez

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Friday, June 11, 2010
— Cindy Tellez remembers her first year in American school, when she spent four or more hours a night on homework with dictionaries and her mother by her side.

An immigrant from Mexico, Tellez was struggling to learn a new language.

She’s still working hard, but she has come a long way. She graduated with the rest of her class from Parker High School on Thursday with flying colors.

Those colors include a 3.7 grade point average and accolades from teachers and others who know her.

If you were looking for an example of how a hard-working immigrant can latch on to the American Dream, you wouldn’t go wrong with Tellez.

Tellez said she might not have come so far without dedicated teachers in Beloit and Janesville, but equal or greater factors were her mother, Maria Silva, and Tellez’s innate abilities.

Tellez tested into eighth grade in her first year at Beloit’s Aldrich Middle School, while most others her age were in seventh grade.

After a year at Aldrich Middle School and a semester at Beloit Memorial High School, the family moved to Janesville, and Tellez went to Parker High.

Today, Tellez lives with her brother, Andy, 10; her mother and a cat named Yoyo in a neat mobile home on Janesville’s west side.

Her parents divorced when she was 4. Silva, who has a sister in California, moved the family there when Tellez was 10.

Tellez, now fluent in English, hasn’t needed the help of Parker’s English language learners program for some time.

“She’s one of our success stories,” said ELL teacher Julie Grandeffo. “I think she’s one in a million.”

“Not only is she friendly and sweet, but she includes everybody,” Grandeffo said.

Tellez also attends the Janesville Academy for International Studies, where lead teacher Jane Thompson said she’s impressed with Tellez’s scholarship and willingness to help others.

Tellez tutors other students and volunteers to provide child care during Latino Family Days at elementary schools, when parents come to learn about how they can help their children succeed.

“She’s always right there to help,” Thompson said. “She’s a young lady who has a heart as big as the ocean.”

Grandeffo said Tellez has shown leadership in emceeing student events, even though Tellez says she’s shy and prefers to stay out of the spotlight.

She also is a member of Parker’s Green Squad, an environmental club, and was chosen a Rotary Club student of the month in April. She hopes to attend UW-Rock County and become a nurse.

Her dream is to work with the international aid group Doctors Without Borders.

“She has determination, and she’s really motivated,” Grandeffo said.

Tellez learned that motivation at home.

Silva said it doesn’t bother her to juggle three jobs to support her children, but she pushes them to excel in school so they’ll have a better life.

“I think it’s not too much time to party now,” Silva said. “It’s not time to play. It’s time to study.”

Tellez has taken that attitude to heart, which makes her mother proud and hopeful.

“I think when you study, you get a better style of life than somebody that doesn’t,” Silva said.

Silva said Tellez has returned the favor, always being there for her mother when things go wrong.

“She was really strong. Sometimes she scares me because she’s stronger than me,” Silva said.

One of the students Tellez has helped with schoolwork is her friend, fellow varsity soccer player and fellow 2010 graduate Cass Horne.

“She’s very down to earth and not conceited,” Horne said. “… She listens. She’s a very good listener, and she puts a different perspective on things.

“She’s just overall a fantastic human being,” Horne added, “and I’m proud to be her friend.”

Last updated: 2:06 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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