Erinda Ornelas Vale, 74, has lived all over the U.S. and in Europe, and she has always had a gift for language. (Randal Seyler Photo)
Erinda Ornelas Vale believes that learning more than one language is important not just for cultural growth, but for the overall quality of life — and language education has played a key role in her life.
Vale, 74, has lived all over the U.S. and in Europe, and she has always had a gift for language.
“My mom and dad moved to Roswell from Spur, Texas, before I was born, but I wound up being born in Texas,” Vale recalls. “My mom thought she could get in one more visit home — but I surprised her.”
Vale’s father, Pablo Ornelas, and her uncle, Tony Ornelas, worked with Dr. Robert Goddard in the 1930s during his development of the liquid-fueled rocket, and her father was a mechanic. Vale attended the old Berrendo School as a child, getting an eighth-grade education. However, the eighth grade in the 1950s wasn’t the same as today’s middle school.
“We had already learned Latin and Algebra II,” Vale recalled. “We had had college courses by the eighth grade.”
Life happened, and Vale married her first husband, who was an Air Force man stationed in Roswell. After they married, she traveled with him to various bases in the U.S. and ultimately to Crete, a Greek island, where they were stationed in an elite NATO posting.
While stationed in Alaska, Vale received her high school diploma through a correspondence school, the International High School of Chicago.
Thanks to Vale’s language skills in English, Spanish and Latin, she was tapped to learn Greek and to serve as an interpreter for the NATO base commander.
“They sent me to the Berlitz language school, which is one of the best language schools in the world,” Vale said.
While she was earning her high school diploma through the mail, Vale was also raising her five children, both in Greece and then in Italy. One benefit of being in Greece was the top-notch education her children received at the base schools.
“Our children were raised to be ‘little ambassadors,’ and that is really what they were,” Vale said.
Her own education would resume once she and her husband relocated to North Carolina. He was there as an ROTC instructor, and by this point the children were older, Vale said.
“Martin Luther King Jr. will always be a hero to me,” she said. “He taught that everyone should be educated, not just black people, but women, too.”
Up until that point, her whole life had revolved around her husband’s career and raising her children, but she soon took the opportunity to attend North Carolina State University.
Located in North Carolina’s famed research triangle, NCSU is one of the unsung powerhouses the region, Vale said.
“Most people don’t know it, but NCSU is the brain trust of the Triangle.”
After more than 19 years, Vale’s first husband left her and she found herself alone and fending for herself while finishing her education at NCSU. She started a consulting business, which led to work in international business and an executive position in Florida. But after years of traveling around the world and dealing in the world of high finance, Vale came home to Roswell to care for her aging mother.
Back in Roswell, Vale started teaching English as a Second Language through her consulting firm, and she says ESL is not being taught properly in public schools these days.
“I still have my K-12 certification, and if the Roswell Independent School District calls me, I’ll be glad to go show them what they are doing wrong,” she said with a laugh.
In Roswell, she also met her second husband, Silverio Vale, who owns Vale’s Body Shop.
She has started a campaign to recognize the contribution of the Hispanic community to Goddard’s research in Roswell, and she wants to honor the men who helped Goddard as well as the famous professor when the city celebrates “Aiming For The Stars” in October.
She also spends much of her time at First Baptist Church, where she has found her spiritual center.
“At First Baptist Church, we worship God and study the Bible,” Vale said. “We also share the Gospel when we can.”