May 23, 2013 in Washington Voices

Not knowing English didn’t stop one Mead student’s drive

By The Spokesman-Review
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Carolina Lopez is the notable senior at Mead High School.
(Full-size photo)

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Going to a new school can be difficult for many students. Starting a new school when you’re from a different country and don’t speak English compounds the challenge.

Carolina Lopez rose to that challenge.

Lopez moved to Spokane from Jalisco, Mexico, during her eighth grade year. When she entered ninth grade at Mead High School she said, “Nobody spoke Spanish!” She laughed. “I think I learned English a little faster because I had to.”

Mead counselor Colleen Thornton said, “Carolina brings such a positive attitude and spirit. She’s always smiling.”

Those smiles don’t mean she didn’t struggle at times. “The people were really nice. Even though we didn’t quite understand each other, we laughed a lot,” Lopez said. “But the language was really hard for my classes.”

The English Language Learner class became her refuge. There she could get homework help and practice her budding language skills. “It really helped,” she said.

However, she still missed her friends in Mexico and returned there for her sophomore year. When she came back to begin her junior year at Mead she said, “It was a little like starting over.”

That didn’t stop her from tackling a rigorous college prep course load. She also participated in track and cross country.

The ELL classroom is still part of her school routine, but now she goes to give back. “Being an ELL student and someone who’s had her own challenges, she always looking to help others,” Thornton said.

Lopez assists students with their homework, but she also encourages them in other ways. “I ask them how they’re doing. I tell them to try sports or get involved.”

She plans to study international business at Eastern Washington University this fall. “I like learning other languages and about other cultures,” she said. “I want to travel the world and see what’s out there.

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