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"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute” -- Proverbs 31:8

Jennifer Guerra came to Bishop Dunne as a shy little girl, but soon bumped into a woman who challenged her to speak up.

“Dr. Alonzo invited me to NHI, The National Hispanic Institute, and so I got involved in debate,” she explains. Soon she was travelling to UT-Austin for the National Hispanic Institute’s four-day long competition in a team of 16 from Bishop Dunne (nine participants, five student coaches, and two adult chaperones) to compete against other Texas teams in the annual “Great Debate.” The topic that year was: “The Vanishing Latino Male on College Campuses.”

Mariah Morales, class of 2011, became Jennifer’s coach, along with classmate, Christina Brieno. Jennifer and Christina met in their freshman Pre-AP Algebra class and became fast friends. Christina, a graduate of St. Elizabeth’s, says Jennifer, from St. Cecilia’s, “talked me into it – she said she was going to go to the initial meeting and I should come.” The two girls ended up as a pair competing in the Great Debate, and felt ready to defend their stand that the “Vanishing Latino Male” on college campuses is not due to feminism. “We know more female Hispanics go to college, but we’re not running off the male population,” said Christina. The two supported their position by pointing to the poor economy (so many young men take jobs to help their families) and the lack of encouragement Latino males get from their family members to attend college.

Both girls spent countless hours all year long preparing for their debate, including a crunch week in July working 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on their speaking skills. In addition to the reading, research, and speech practice, they also were involved in a number of fundraisers throughout the school year to help them get to UT.

There are four categories in the “Great Debate,” and Bishop Dunne students typically compete in three: Mock Trial, Cross Examination, and Extemporaneous Speaking. Teams can win individual trophies in any of the categories, but taking home a team prize is difficult since a team needs at least 24 students.

Jennifer moved up to coach the team in her sophomore year when they travelled to Austin College in Sherman. She became head coach of the Mock Trial Team the following year, as a junior, when they returned to Austin College, and this, her final year, she’s head coach of the Dallas region when the team travels to compete at Austin College.

All of this debate, research, fundraising and coaching is preparing Jennifer for what she hopes is a bright future. “NHI has prepared me for the real world,” she says, “And I never would have gotten this opportunity if it wasn’t for Bishop Dunne.”

She also had a unique opportunity in January, when she was one of five seniors invited to PricewaterhouseCooper LLP on Martin Luther King Day, located in downtown Dallas. This was the first time the company hosted such an event, giving high school seniors a chance to see what a day in the life of a CPA might be like. Mr. Meza chose five seniors who have declared business or accounting as their college major: Jennifer was joined by Christina Brieno, Alexandria Locke, Cameron Maxwell, and Kendall Payne to spend the day learning about what their future as a CPA might hold.

Channda Dunbar, North Texas Diversity Leader at PricewaterhouseCooper LLP, sent an email to Principal Molly O’Sullivan the following day which said, “I wanted to follow up with you about the Bishop Dunne candidates you sent to yesterday's MLK Day program. They were stellar! We were all very impressed with them and they were among the strongest students in attendance. In fact, Dunne was the only school where all five of your students in attendance were in our top tier and will be receiving follow up.”

Jennifer feels she was chosen because she’s had great math teachers, including her favorite – Tom Perez, her freshman and senior year. Ms. Bove is her favorite science teacher. Jennifer also took Early Childhood Education and got to return the favor: Ms. Bove’s daughter, Annabelle Grace, had Jennifer as a student teacher in the Primer daycare class, in the Bishop Dunne Daycare for teachers. Ms. Bove’s said of Jennifer that, “She was fun, nurturing, and such a privilege to have her as an influence on my four year old daughter! And Jennifer always gave me her best effort in my class - as a teacher, I really appreciate that.”

Jennifer appreciates all her teachers at Dunne and is most grateful to her parents: mother Cristina, an ambassador for Jafra Cosmetics, and father, Pedro, a self-employed truck driver, for sacrificing to put her through school. Her mother is learning English, and Jennifer speaks only Spanish at home. “Neither of my parents went to college,” she explains. “But they wanted both me and my brother, Pedro, to be able to.” Pedro graduated from Bishop Dunne in 2012 and is attending East Texas Baptist University.

Jennifer had her choice of universities. She applied to St. John’s in New York, Spring Hill, Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Mary Hardin Baylor, and St. Mary’s in San Antonio and got accepted into all five. She’ll attend St. Mary’s on a significant scholarship, and for that, she is grateful. “Any way I can help my parents to pay for my college tuition, I’m going to do it,” she says earnestly.

Her ability to speak up and lead resulted in being chosen to be president of the Latinos Unidos Club this year, her third as an active member. The club members celebrate their heritage and do community service and other events. This year the club organized the Celebracion de las Americas, organized and coordinated the Virgin de Guadalupe brunch for students at the new Chapel, participated in the Rise and Shine 5K Walk and ran the Houston College trip with 45 students attending the tour. Jennifer’s favorite memory came last month when a group attended a Rangers’ baseball game. She’s proud that the club has grown to 40 members this year.

“My parents met and married in Mexico, but I was born here,” she says, “so it’s important to me to keep close to my heritage as a Mexican American.”

Also important to her are the friends she has made while at Bishop Dunne. She expects they’ll be life-long friends. Her “Crew of Five” includes Ashley Gomez, Valerie Gutierrez, Rakel Barrientos, and Jessica Gomez – all heading off to college in the fall - with Ashley and Valerie attending Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio, so Jennifer expects to see them whenever the three have a free weekend.

But for this summer, her weekends will be spent helping her parents around their home in Waxahachie, attending Church at St. Joseph’s, designing business cards for her mother (thanks to her class in Graphic Design taught by Ms. Ramirez), and in June she’ll be staffing the Texas Star Great Debate in San Antonio, then return to Dallas to help guide her team to the Texas Ambassador Great Debate in July. Finally, in August she’ll embark on the next exciting journey: college.

Jennifer may just follow in the footsteps of her former mentor, Dr. Alonzo, who graduated from Notre Dame, went on to earn a Ph.D. in Education, and now is principal of a Catholic school in Temple. Jennifer is interested in a career in education or business. With her impressive work ethic, her debate finesse, and her math and bilingual skills, the sky is the limit for this Falcon. She’s got all she needs to soar.

“That is why we work and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:10

Note: At graduation on May 23, 2014, Jennifer received a Golden Falcon award for her work in the Latinos Unidos Club and a Golden Falcon award for her success in World Language, recognizing her outstanding accomplishment in each. The Golden Falcon award at Bishop Dunne is similar to an Oscar, recognizing a student for being the best in a class or club.
For more information on Bishop Dunne, see the school website.
Latinos Unidos: Newly Elected Board for the 2014-2015 Academic year:
Krystal Garcia
Vice President
Bernadette Zuniga
Public Relations
Stephanie Brieno
Anne Marie Carranza and Giselle Gomez
Event Coordinator and Community Service Liaisons
Giselle Martinez and Marissa Gutierrez
Freshman Liaison
Maria Nieto

Information provided by Judy Porter.

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