An American Dream, inspired by faith

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When Joqui Giron-Melendez and her family first moved to Chelsea from Honduras almost 25 years ago, they had a sense that great things were going to happen. This was America after all!

From an early age, her parents instilled in her a strong work ethic and a belief that in America good things happen to those who stay the course and embrace the opportunities this country offers.

When Giron-Melendez entered middle school, her mother noticed that she was coming back home “drained.”

“In middle school a lot of my friends started to have certain issues…so my mother wanted me to be in a better environment,” she said.

“My parents grew up in a Christian environment, so as soon as they found out that there was a Christian school opening up in 2002, they jumped on it and took me out of the public school system.”

That year, Giron-Melendez and her younger brother began commuting over two hours each day from Chelsea to Hyde Park to attend Boston Trinity Academy (BTA). Her parents were thrilled that they had found a school founded upon the values of “faith, integrity, and service.” Her parents’ mantra, has always been “go for your goals and reach them.” Giron-Melendez’s school experience seemed to validate that work ethic, along with her family’s values.

Her former history teacher, Becky Guerra, remembers that as an eighth grader at BTA, Giron-Melendez “went by Nancy, which is also her mother’s name.”

“She was a hard working student,” recalls Guerra.

“Because Spanish was spoken at home, her English language skills were not as strong then as they have become.”

Guerra remembers that, back then, Giron-Melendez “thought of herself as a tough, feisty girl, quick to fight and to defend herself. That is still how she remembers herself as a middle school student. That is not my recollection at all. True, she was feisty, but she was quick to back down and examine her faults, and apologize where necessary. She is still that way.”

For her part, Giron-Melendez says that Guerra inspired her to “try different things, to think in different ways, and to have different perspectives.” And she often told Guerra that she planned to someday return to Boston Trinity Academy as a teacher.

In college, inspired by her teacher, Giron-Melendez looked for opportunities to challenge herself “every single day.”

In 2011 Giron-Melendez received her undergraduate degree from Gordon College. That fall, she returned to BTA as a Spanish teacher.

But she was not content to stop there.

As a faculty member, Giron-Melendez loved teaching as well as taking part in student activities. So, she set her sights on becoming BTA’s Dean of Students. The school’s headmaster, Frank Guerra (Becky’s husband), encouraged her to work toward that goal.

“The way my mind works is that if someone has an expectation for me, I like that challenge and I will reach that. Maybe that’s how my parents raised me, because of [the] work ethic of the Latino community…maybe that’s even the ‘American dream’ of doing things.”

At the end of the 2014/2015 school year, Joqui Giron-Melendez was offered the Dean of Students position, and her “American Dream” came true.

Today, Becky Guerra is excited to witness the success of one of her students up close.

“What is exciting for me in this is the fact that she will now be leading meetings that I attend, and she will be making decisions after weighing my input, without having to use it,” Guerra said.

“I believe this is what we want for those we disciple. Joqui has grown into a faithful and wise adult, whose lead I will now be pleased to follow.”

Contact Tamara Starr at [email protected]