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The Orlando Sentinel

Siblings Take Pride In Heritage

by Shannon Rose

November 5, 2000
Copyright © 2000 The Orlando Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

When Noelis and Bernardo Jose "B.J." Marquez arrived in the United States from Puerto Rico last summer, the siblings gave little notice to the significance of the date.

The two had just left behind family and friends to move to Central Florida -- a huge transition in the lives of teenagers who didn`t speak much English. The symbolism of starting new lives on July 4 was lost on the two.

But Noelis and B.J. knew they were being given a special opportunity, one that their parents were willing to sacrifice to provide for them.

"My father`s motive was for our education," said B.J., a junior at Winter Springs, "and to improve our volleyball game. We get more promotion here for universities. We have more opportunities."

Their father, Bernardo Marquez, settled the family, which also includes 11-year-old Jose and cousin Norka Garcia, a freshman at Seminole Community College, in Winter Springs. A longtime owner of a supermarket, Bernardo Marquez now travels between the two places, spending months away from his family to keep the business running. It`s difficult on the whole family.

But they all know it is worth the sacrifice. B.J. and Noelis already can cite many of the positives. They have developed a strong command of English, adjusted easily to the classroom, found new friends and made immediate impacts on their volleyball teams at Winter Springs.

B.J. was awarded the most valuable player honor for the boys team for bringing consistency and a quiet leadership to the team. He served a team-high 27 aces and recorded 468 assists, 51 blocks, 96 digs and 64 kills.

Noelis, one of only two freshmen on the varsity squad, quickly impressed Coach Kim Vach, whose team was the 6A state runner-up last year and won the Seminole Athletic Conference title this season. Vach knew Noelis` experience playing for a 13-year-old national championship team would make her a tremendous asset to her program.

"Latin players have a style, a flair that is so natural for the game," said Vach, who rotates Noelis in to serve and play on the back row. "She is very intense on the court."

B.J. and Noelis hope to attend college in the United States. But they will always maintain their Puerto Rican ties and remember their first language and heritage.

"I always pride myself on it," Noelis said. "I won`t forget it, ever."

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