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Leading by example

MHCC student mentors others to learn from 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 a mentor for high school students with the Oregon Leadership Institute at Mt. Hood Community College.

But Clemente’s calling also was 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, who aims to help kids help themselves before they destroy their futures.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Clemente Tescahua avoided gang activity with the help of a mentor and now is a mentor himself.

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 didn’t happen.

In middle school, Clemente linked 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 you’d like to follow,” Clemente said. “When I got caught, my mom came to pick me up, and seeing her crying was really hard. I didn’t want my family to suffer like that and I thought, ‘What would my sister think if she saw me doing that?’

That wouldn’t make me a good brother.”

Guardian angel

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 laser surgery, and I still have some problems, but they say it’s a miracle I can see at all. Obie was my angel (the night of the accident). Ever since then, I’ve had a lot of respect for her, and now we’re friends.”

Tough love

Clemente entered high school and though he began distancing himself from the co-horts he’d gotten in trouble with, his parents still weren’t 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 didn’t want to go to school, I would have to get a job. They wanted me to work so I wouldn’t 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 Club and the HOSA Club 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 adviser for the Azteca and Hosa clubs. Her influence put him on the course he’s charted for his future.

Clemente will complete his associate’s degree in general studies at Mt. Hood Community College this spring. He plans to pursue his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Portland State University, with a career goal as a high school counselor.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Clemente Tescahua takes part in a planning session at Mt. Hood Community College with fellow mentors for the upcoming Oregon Leadership Institute for high school mentees.

“I think high school is the time to get your act together,” Clemente said. “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: It’s never too late to rechart your life’s course.

“I tell the students I mentor that what you’re 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 don’t want to change for your family and friends, do it for yourself. Don’t 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. Outlook 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?

Tell us about a Shining Star you know by contacting Anne Endicott at 503-492-5118 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

And watch for the next Shining Star in the Tuesday, Jan. 29 issue of the Outlook.




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