The hard part is over for Macy Neely, 8, and her grandmother, Christy Hawks. But even though she is safe and sound, she still has to readjust to life in East Tennessee.
Hawks rescued Macy from a Mexican orphanage in January with the help of a team of child advocates. Macy lived there for three years as a ward of the Mexican government. Guadalajara police found her when she was barely four years old abandoned, with only her dog. She spoke only Spanish at the time of her rescue, a language no one in her family knows.
Read more: Crossville child reunited with family after being abandoned in Mexico
Now Macy has been home four months. She lives with her grandmother and her siblings and attends Crab Orchard Elementary in Cumberland County.
"I know those first few days, it was overwhelming to her," said her first grade teacher, Susan Denton. "She was very clingy at first, very unsure, very shy."
But Denton said her anxiety didn't last long. She is speaking, at times, in full sentences, reading, and writing in English. While she needs the support of her best friend, Kira, in some subjects, she is excelling in math.
"With this she help me. With this I help her," Macy said with a Spanish accent, pointing to her school work.
She's also teaching her classmates Spanish, even if she doesn't always like the attention.
"All day...[they ask] 'What is this? What is this? What is this? [in Spanish]," she said.
"The first day she came here we were surprised," said Kira Carr, her best friend. But Kira made her feel welcome with a Spanish song she learned on TV. It was that gesture that formed an instant bond.
Her teachers credit her success to a volunteer bilingual tutor that comes several times a week. Her grandmother also says they use computer programs at home.
"She's come so far. She seems to be adjusting. She seems happy and that's what we want," said Denton.
Macy earned her class' "Student of the Month" award for April.
Macy said sometimes she still gets nervous speaking English in front of her entire class, but with her classmates' encouragement, it makes it a little easier.
Macy's mother, Leah Neely, is believed to have abandoned her in Mexico.
She is wanted and has nine outstanding warrants in Cumberland County.
Macy's grandmother said Leah Neely called her recently. She told Macy she was better off with her grandmother and that she wasn't coming back to Tennessee.