Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Life is 90% attitude when adversity hits, and 10% what happens. At a young age, life delivered a thunderbolt to Ralph Tellez, guidance counselor at Roswell High School, and forever changed his outlook.
At an early age, one man, Horace “Pop” Brown, believed in Tellez and made a difference. Tellez used to work as a rack boy at the Sunset Pool Hall.
Brown impressed Tellez because he had a classic Cadillac. While working at the pool hall after school and during the summers, Tellez listened to the wisdom from “Pop” Brown and earned two degrees, a Bachelor of Science in psychology, and a master’s in school counseling.
“Son, you’ll never be nobody without an education,” Brown said. “Education is the key to the world. It’s the key to success.”
Realizing his dream
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As a junior in high school, Tellez said he remembers in April 1970 sitting across from his guidance counselor, who did not bother to look at him. The counselor talked to Tellez looking at his folder when, Tellez said, the counselor uttered the words, “Mr. Tellez, based on your test scores and all that, I think you’ll work better with your hands. Next year, we are going to put you in a trade school.”
Tellez said when he walked out of school that day, he said to himself, “I’m going to be a high school counselor and take that job from him.”
He was devastated after hearing those words. His friend, Orlando, told Tellez the guidance counselor said the same thing to him. Feeling like his dream was taken from him, Tellez said he knew the counselor had labeled him. The visit hurt, he said, because the counselor showed no compassion and didn’t give him any hope.
Tellez and Orlando were standing in the U.S. Marine Corps recruiting depot in sunny San Diego, California. Tellez served four years in the Marines, reaching the rank of sergeant during the Vietnam War before being honorably discharged.
Tellez came back to Roswell in his uniform and went to see Brown, who told him the same thing he always told him: to get his education and come back to see him.
Never give up
After getting out of the service, Tellez passed the GED and enrolled at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, where he majored in psychology, graduating in 1979 from ENMU-Portales. Brown died before he could see Tellez graduate.
After earning his degree, Tellez worked at the Roswell Correctional Center for a year. From there, he worked at Counseling Associates for eight years in the day treatment program.
While working there, Tellez met another mentor in Verdell Taylor, who was a therapist. By watching Taylor, Tellez said he developed a passion for kids. The one thing Tellez learned was to let kids tell their stories. He would always tell kids to never give up, never give up.
“One of the things I learned from those kids,” Tellez said, “is to give them respect. Every kid wants respect. Sometimes you have to look deeper into their soul to find the good in them, and the other thing is to affirm them.”
When Tellez’s father had a massive heart attack, Tellez was at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center helping his mom get his dad’s stuff together so they could fly him to Albuquerque. One of the ICU nurses was preparing his dad to get on the plane.
After they flew his dad to Albuquerque, one of the male nurses was writing his notes, and as Tellez was walking out the door, the nurse said, “We’ll see you, Mr. Tellez.” The nurse lowered his mask — it was one of the first kids that Tellez had counseled at Counseling Associates.
The nurse told him after he left the counseling center, he got it together and went to school to become an ICU nurse. He always remembered that Tellez told him to never give up.
Getting the call
In 2000, Tellez’s life would change when he received a call from Sierra Middle School principal Josie Turner. She asked him if he wanted to be a counselor. Once he accepted the job, he was told he had to go back to school and get his master’s in counseling.
For the next four years, he would drive to Highlands University on Tuesdays and Thursdays to get his master’s degree.
In 2010, Tellez started asking Roswell principal Ruben Bolaños if he had any openings at the high school. Bolaños, for the next three years, would tell him there were no openings at the high school and he would have to wait. It was not until January 2013 that Bolaños called him to come work at the high school, making his dream come true.
Tellez’s message to all students is to never give up.
He talks to the kids getting off the bus in the morning and will visit with them at lunch. He feels it is important to attend activities that kids are in to let kids know he supports them.
“You find out more about a kid outside the classroom than you do inside a classroom,” Tellez said. “I believe in giving kids positive affirmation. I listen to kids’ stories because all kids have a story to tell.”
One of the mentors Tellez learned from was Louis Mestas. He said Mestas would take the kids to lunch and was so positive with them, giving them affirmation.
Tellez says another mentor was Bruce Gaucher and his passion for kids. Tellez said Gaucher is a great person.
Bolaños gave him the call to live his dream and showed him the ropes on how to do the job.
“Louis Mestas always told me we’re in the kid business,” Tellez said. “Kids are our greatest natural resource. Kids are going to be doctors, lawyers, teachers and neighbors. Respect them.”
Tellez is having too much fun to slow down. His work is not a job, but a passion and calling. He gives credit to principal Pilar Carrasco and RHS staff and the counselors that work with him: Amber Marrujo, Cindy Sosa and Anna Curtis.
“I want kids to know I have hope in them and I want to touch their heart,” Tellez said.
Tellez is so passionate about helping kids that he never gives up on one. He will hand out RHS cards, and on the back of the card, there will be a handwritten note that says: “Never give up on yourself. Get the education you deserve.”
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.