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Thu, Oct. 17

Bradshaw senior overcomes obstacles without giving up focus
‘Unaccompanied minor’ maintains grades while working full time

Cheyenne Perez is graduating from Bradshaw Mountain High School on May 23, 2019, and will attend Yavapai College. (Joanne Bindell/Courtesy)

Cheyenne Perez is graduating from Bradshaw Mountain High School on May 23, 2019, and will attend Yavapai College. (Joanne Bindell/Courtesy)

Working a job with full-time hours has not kept Cheyenne Perez, a graduating senior at Bradshaw Mountain High School (BMHS), from attending classes and maintaining good grades. Employment is a necessity because Perez, 18, is pretty much on her own.

The Humboldt Unified School District considers her an “unaccompanied minor,” said Helene Tonnemacher, homeless liaison for the district, who worked with 15 such students this year.

Perez has been living with a friend’s family for the past year and a half, with Tonnemacher making checks on the student’s well-being and safety, and finding resources to help with health care and clothes. She also provides transportation to doctors’ appointments, and sits in on teacher conferences. Recently, she found a health care provider because Perez’s wages put her over the qualifying amount to receive state medical care.

The friend’s father has played the role of parent, Tonnemacher said. He checks Perez’ homework and report cards, and was her “bank” until a week ago.

“I saved up for a car,” Perez said. She entrusted her earnings from her work at a local convenience store every week until reaching $2,200, enough to buy a used vehicle.

She turned 18 in the fall, and this month, opened a bank account, successfully tested for her driver’s license, and enrolled in nursing classes at Yavapai College. She has completed a year in the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program and will take her state board exams in June.

“I’m minoring in social work. I might go into nursing or something else,” she said. A younger brother with autism has given her an interest in working with children with special needs, or she may tackle courses leading toward the OB-GYN profession.

Perez attended Humboldt schools — Coyote Springs Elementary, Bradshaw Mountain Middle School, and BMHS — except for a time in her freshman year when she moved to Peoria to live with her mother. That didn’t work out.

Her parents’ divorce when she was just beginning elementary school placed Perez with her father. Later, she worked at a fast food restaurant to help with bills. But due to his “bad habits,” her father lost the house.

One day her father was out of town at a time they were staying in a household with other adults. Perez got a tip the home was going to be raided. She grabbed one set of clothes to wear the next day and ran. A phone call to Tonnemacher led to a safe place to stay.

“I’ve never seen a student under this adversity be so successful. She never complains,” Tonnemacher said. “She has a genuine sympathy for others, but also a no-nonsense attitude. She’s shy and quiet, and has compassion for others. She looks around and will let me know if they (other students) are having troubles.”

Perez confirmed this, saying she will help others to a point. “I will not let them use me. I draw the line at that.”

She credits two teachers for making her high school life a little easier: CNA instructors Nancy Vallely — “my go-to teacher” — and Linda Schaetzle.

This summer she will visit and help her mother, an older sister, and her two younger brothers in Phoenix.

When asked if she had advice for students who may be struggling, Perez said, “Whatever comes your way, any obstacle that gets in your way, don’t let it. Let your goals take over.

“Other kids should know nothing can stop them. No matter what.”

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