Parker High School graduate Yuliana Lopez stands with some of her paintings in an art room at the school Wednesday. Lopez has plans to study education and art at UW-Whitewater at Rock County for two years before transferring to the Whitewater campus.


Y uliana Lopez was beaming.

It’s possible Yuliana always is beaming because that’s just who she is.

Don’t think “beam” as in “little ray of sunshine.” Think “beaming” as in luminescent, full of energy and light.

Yuliana Lopez will graduate Friday with 335 other Parker seniors. This summer, she’ll work, and next fall she’ll start the next part of her life as a student at UW-Whitewater at Rock County.

Parker High School teachers and administrators picked Yuliana Lopez as a standout senior because of her academic credentials, her artistic talent and for that light and energy she spreads.

Consider this: When Yuliana was younger and still rode the bus to Parker, she would stand at the top of the three flights of stairs leading down to the staff parking lot. When English teacher Julie Grandeffo arrived, Yuliana would sing the opening lines to “Circle of Life” from the “Lion King,” which sound sort of like this: “BAAAAA SO WHEN YA!”

Welcome to work, Mrs. Grandeffo.

And this: In the past three years, six Parker graduates have earned the Global Education Achievement Certificate. Yuliana is one of them.

The certificate requires students to take four years of world language, four credits of courses with global content, eight written reflections demonstrating cultural literacy, participation in school-wide global activities and a minimum of 20 hours on a global service project.

“I thought it would expand my knowledge of other cultures,” Yuliana said. “I know that people think that books and everything are really boring, but I thought it was really fun.”

Yuliana’s second language is English, and she has been active in—and a promoter of—Parker’s Culture Club.

Yuliana spend hours volunteering at Hedberg Public Library. She has led a professional development session for teachers about the significance of Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, and gave a similar presentation at Hedberg Public Library.

What was she like with her fellow students?

“She was always the one who got everyone involved,” Grandeffo said. “Like with Culture Club—she was always saying, ‘Hey, come check this out.’”

How did she develop into the young woman she is today?

Her father and mother, who grew up in Mexico, did not have the chance to continue their educations.

“My dad only went to elementary school, and my mom went to middle school,” Yuliana said. “Education is really important to them. Once they came here, they pushed my brothers and I in our education. That’s why they came here—to have a better life.”

Her mom attended student-teacher conferences even though her English wasn’t perfect. Sometimes, Yuliana translated for her. In her family, school always came first.

And in school, art came first for Yuliana. It’s the way she tells the story of her life and the way she explains things to others. For her Dia de Los Muertos presentation at Hedberg Public Library, Yuliana created a series of paintings. Her work is saturated with intense color and seems to be an extension of her own energy and light.

“I feel like everybody should express themselves the way they want to express themselves, especially in high school,” Yuliana said.

Yuliana was awarded one of the school district’s multicultural teacher scholarships. The scholarship program was created in 2008 to provide “an incentive for Janesville students of color to return to the community as professional teachers and role models for all students.”

As a teacher, she wants to be a role model for other students who look like her and for students who want to capture some of her natural energy and light.

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