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Star-Eyewitness News 4 Student of the Week
February 18, 2003
By Jennifer Sterba

Nine-year-old Melissa Lopez uses her bilingual background to help other students and she hopes someday to become a teacher.

"Melissa is a star in my fourth-grade class," said Jennifer Franklin, her teacher at Southside Community School, 2701 S. Campbell Ave. "She is very attentive and focused in class and a hundred percent accountable for all of her work.

"Not only does she do her own work to her best ability, but she enjoys volunteering to help other students to complete their work
and learn to read in her free time - both in English and Spanish, since she's bilingual."

Franklin said she often pairs students up for reading exercises and Melissa has the most patience with English-learning students. They aren't intimidated by someone their own age teaching them, she said.

There are 26 students in Melissa's class, six who have arrived recently from Mexico. Melissa's bilingual skills motivate the new students to catch up with her in speaking English.

"They want to learn more because they want to communicate more with the other students," Franklin said.

Melissa loves to read and often assists her English-learning classmates by translating. She often translates for her mother, Emma Quintero, too.

"Sometimes they don't know how to read things well and I help them," Melissa said. "It's helped me read and talk both ways.

"I feel proud."

Melissa began attending Southside after she heard about the charter school from her cousin. The school focuses on teaching students community and personal responsibility, as well as on academic achievement.

She's made many friends there and participates in cheerleading every weekend.

"I get to have a 'big sister' there," Melissa said. "There's middle-schoolers there and they're nice to me."

Franklin said Melissa wants to learn to play the violin and piano. Melissa adds that she wants to be an art teacher when she grows up.

"I like going to arts and crafts club," she said. "I made Valentine's Day decorations. It's fun. I love drawing and painting different places - like the desert and ocean in Mexico."

Franklin said Melissa enjoys being the "queen" of her three younger brothers and hopes they'll spoil her with parties when they're older.

Melissa has a 4-year-old brother, Ivan Lopez, a 2-year-old brother, Jonathan Martinez, and a 6-month-old brother, Daniel Martinez.

Her advice to them is "to always help people and think of good things instead of bad."

* Contact reporter Jennifer Sterba at 573-4191 or at jsterba@azstarnet.com.

* The Student of the Week is featured Monday nights at 10 on Eyewitness News 4 and Tuesdays in the Star. Please fax brief nominations of K-12 students and contact information to 573-4107, or use an online form at www.azstarnet.com/education .