Leading by example
MHCC student mentors other to learn from his mistakes
Twenty-year old Clemente Tescahua applied a few ah ha moments gleaned as a young teenager to avoid what he refers to as heading down the wrong path.
He now shares those lessons learned with middle and high school students wavering at the same crossroads where he once stood. Clemente is an intern counselor and tutor for Latino students at Estacada Junior High, a community recycling advocate near his home and he mentors high school students with the Oregon Leadership Institute at Mt Hood Community College.
But Clementes calling was also impacted twice by the acts of a total stranger a woman who once saved his life and later, returned to save him from himself.
Those experiences have combined to form a master plan for Clemente, whose aims to help kids help themselves before they destroy their futures.
Soft-spoken, but ready with a smile, Clemente is the oldest of four children of Sandy residents, Federico and Maria Aguirre-Tescahua. He is the first in his family to graduate from high school (Sandy High Class of 2011), and the first to attend college (Mt. Hood Community College Class of 2013).
Those accomplishments, however, nearly didnt happen.
In middle school, Clemente hooked up with a crowd of peers who conflicted with his parents approval and his upbringing. His friends influence caused him to skip school, party frequently and sell anything I could get my hands on. Clemente blew off warnings from his parents about his future and ignored the example he was setting for his younger siblings.
But a brush with a security guard shortly before his freshman year at Sandy High School was a wake-up call.
I had made a lot of new friends, but not the kind of friends youd like to follow, Clemente said. When I got caught, my mom came to pick me up and seeing her crying was really hard. I didnt want my family to suffer like that and I thought, What would my sister think if she saw me doing that?
That wouldnt make me a good brother.
Faced with disappointing his family, Clemente drew upon a horrific event earlier in his life that demonstrated the depth of familial importance.
In 2000, then-8-year-old Clemente was heading home with his family on Highway 26 near Sandy, when a drunk driver struck their vehicle head-on. Behind the impaired driver, was another car driven by Obie Murphy, an educational assistant at Sandy High School. Murphy helped the family out of their damaged car after the impact and called for medical personnel. Though lucky to be alive, Clemente faced a personal challenge in the wake of the accident.
My eyes were cut by glass and I lost my eyesight, Clemente said. I had lazar surgery and I still have some problems, but they say its a miracle I can see at all. Obie was my angel (the night of the accident). Ever since then, Ive had a lot of respect for her and now were friends.
Clemente entered high school and though he began distancing himself from the co-horts hed gotten in trouble with, his parents still werent happy with his choice in companions. Nor were they pleased with the direction his life was taking.
They sat me down and told me I was going down the wrong path, he said. And if I didnt want to go to school, I would have to get a job. They wanted me to work so I wouldnt be on the streets doing what I was doing.
Clemente took the ultimatum to heart. He shed the saggy attire, in favor of casual dress clothes, and immersed himself in school activities. By his senior year, he was president of the Latino-oriented Azteca and Hosa clubs at Sandy High School, and volunteering at the nearby Sandy Vista Apartments, teaching oral health care to Latino youngsters. He became reacquainted with Murphy, who was advisor for the Azteca and Hosa clubs. Her influence put him on the course hes charted for his future.
Clemente will complete his associates degree in general studies at Mt. Hood Community College this spring. He plans to pursue his bachelors and masters degrees at Portland State University, with a career goal as a high school counselor.
I think high school is the time to get your act together, Clemente explained. I want to help guide kids and open doors so they can take advantage of the opportunities out there.
Clemente knows well the temptation that leads kids to believe they are large and in charge at a young age. And he understands how the choices made during middle and high school can impact the future. But his experience provides a hopeful reality check: its never too late to rechart your lifes course.
I tell the students I mentor that what youre doing will become a life habit if you keep it up, he said. I ask them, Is this the way you want to live? But if you dont want to change for your family and friends, do it for yourself. Dont let the darkness of your past drag you back. Keep moving forward.
Do you know a Shining Star?
Shining Stars is a feature that recognizes local students quietly doing great things in the community. Estacada News readers, parents and teachers are encouraged to tell us about a student of any age, whose talents outside the academic arena are making our world a better place. Do they volunteer regularly at a retirement center? Have they taught an artistic practice to a youth group? What are they doing in the community that makes us proud to call them our neighbor?