Telena Cruz Nelson was born in Portland, Oregon, on September 25, 1980, the first of five children. She is the daughter of Theodore Dwight Borja Nelson and Stephanie Cruz Nelson, both natives of Guam. Her paternal grandparents are Theodore Sgambelluri Nelson, who served as Vice Speaker of the Guam Legislature, and Gloria Camacho Borja Nelson (d.), and her maternal grandparents are Jose Quitugua Cruz (d.) and Asuncion "Connie" Lazaro Cruz.
She was raised in a Roman Catholic family. Her maternal grandmother Connie was instrumental in the pilgrimage that brought the Santa Maria Kamalen-Our Lady of Camarin to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. She and her maternal grandmother are lectors at their Catholic Church.
She attended Simon Sanchez High School in Guam. She graduated from the University of Guam with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and a Master's Degree in Public Administration and is an ICMP Certified Manager. Nelson is a Major in the Guam Army National Guard. In 2001, she enlisted as a Combat Medic. In 2007, she entered and completed Officer Candidate School to be commissioned as an Officer in the Guam Army National Guard.
Nelson's Professional Military Education consists of Basic Training, Advanced Individual Training as a Combat Medic certifying her as a Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician-Basic (NREMT-B), Basic Officer Leader Course, Signal Corps Basic Officer Leader Course, Signal Captains Career Course, Intermediate Level Education (ILE) for Field Grade Officers, and is currently attending Advance Operations Warfighting Course (AOC).
Nelson has civilian experience as an educator in the Guam Department of Education. Coming from a background of educators- her parents, grandmothers, aunts, siblings, and cousins- her calling was clear to help educate younger generations.
Her family comes from a lineage of farmers and ranchers that have produced their food and agricultural products for means of living and reselling. Her great-great-grandfather Peter Nelson was a botanist and discovered a large tree from the Serianthes family, which they named after him. The Seraithes Nelsonii is known as the S. Nelsonii or hayun lagu. It was named critically endangered in 1998.
She has shown her passion for helping the community by holding multiple teaching positions over the span of several years. Nelson has had the opportunity to work as a Science and Physical Education Teacher as well as hold the position of Opportunity Room and Secondary Teacher positions. Through these positions, she has been able to enrich her students' curriculum to the national and state standards, as well as promote physical fitness in the lives of Guam's youth.
Nelson's awards consist of the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal 3OLC, Air Force Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal 2 OLC, Air Force Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, NATO Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Army Reserve Component Overseas Training, Armed Forces Reserved Medal, Global War On Terrorism Service Medal, Guam Commendation Medal, and the German Proficiency Badge.
Entry into Public Service
Telena Cruz Nelson is a Combat Veteran who served in Afghanistan and is a three term Democratic Senator currently in the 36th Guam Legislature. A member of the majority party, Nelson was selected by her colleagues to serve as Majority Leader and chairs the Committee on Education and Infrastructural Advancement, Border Protection and Maritime Transportation, Guåhan Preservation and Self-Determination, and Federal and Foreign Relations. In the 35th Guam Legislature Nelson was elected as the Vice Speaker and Majority Leader and chaired the Committee on Education, Air Transportation, and Statics Research and Planning, and in the 34th Guam Legislature Nelson was the Majority Whip and chaired the Committee on Housing, Utilities, Public Safety, and Homeland Security.
During her term in the 34th Guam Legislature Nelson passed key legislation that established the Guam Landlord and Tenant Rental Act, extended the deadline for the land for the landless program, increasing the first time homeowner assistance program eligibility, outlawed casino gambling, and requiring peace officers to perform job specific physical fitness qualification tests, and in efforts in protecting the Guam’s natural resources the conservation officers division was fully funded and expanded.
During her term in the 35th Guam Legislature Nelson As the chair on Education Nelson created legislation that would allow the Guam Department of Education to enter into solar purchases in anticipation of realizing savings of $4M or more for the Department. She also worked closely with Charter Schools ensuring consistent revenue appropriations and disbursements were protected. As a law enforcement advocate Nelson worked with the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST) Commission further granting their administrative authority.
Currently in the 36th Guam Legislature Nelson continues to work for fair practices and treatment for teachers and counselors within the Guam Department of Education, protection of employees requesting shift changes to accommodate their family life, extending protections to part-time workers in the areas of family and medical leave and pension plans to ensure equitable treatment in the workplace.