Creating Community through Inclusion
By: Lauren Kloser
For Paty Salazar Harty, the dedicated service of her parents’ lives has informed and inspired her work in Catholic schools. Growing up, Paty saw what it truly meant to help others. She watched as her father, who grew up in extreme poverty in Mexico with fifteen brothers and sisters, and her mother, who came from a home in Mexico where survival was more important than literacy, sacrificed their time and talents to help others in need. Her father, a mechanic, isn’t technically in the social services profession, but that didn’t stop him from naming his business “Amigos,” in acknowledgment that friends are there to help others. Her mother, who graduated from college in Mexico, knew that Catholic education was the way for her children to succeed – not just in the professional world, but also in their spiritual development.
As Paty watched her parents help her neighbors read their bill statements, navigate a convoluted bureaucracy and simply figure out a confusing world, she realized that her parents’ journey was not an easy one. Her parents, too, were recipients of help – someone else had helped explain their new country and new rules to them. She knew that her family flourished because of the constant community connection and with her life experience, she also knew that she wanted to help others like her parents did every day.
Now a principal at Saint Sebastian School in Los Angeles, it was Paty’s ACE experience that started her journey towards serving others. A member of ACE Teaching Fellows 13, Paty had a unique placement: Sacred Heart School, a dual immersion Catholic school in Washington, DC. Though she had done her undergraduate studies in Washington, DC, Paty came to know the city in a new way through her students. In her classroom, she had students from all over the world. Not only were they proficient in their native languages, but now they were immersed in a school that required them to speak both English and Spanish. The school was a place of acceptance, where the students found solidarity in their diversities. Because they were all different from each other and because the school was different from so many other places, the students embraced and celebrated their cultural and linguistic distinctions.
With this diverse population and with the challenge of teaching two languages, Paty was spurred to continue working with second-language learners through the ACE in Chile and English as a New Language programs. In classes tailored to language development, Paty began to examine her own experience more closely. She had grown up in a world split into two: she spoke Spanish at home and English at school. With this division firmly in place, it had felt to Paty as though she was lacking – as though she was somehow deficient because her first language was not English. Her feelings at Sacred Heart and at St. George’s in Chile made Paty realize that her students did not need to have her same experience. With her help, her students could feel that sense of acceptance and joy that comes from rejoicing in the multitude of ways God has created beauty in each person.
Now, with her experience as an ACE Teaching Fellow, ChACE teacher, reading specialist and principal, Paty wishes she could make every one of her students realize one thing: English will come. She works every day to teach her students that knowing another language is an asset, not a deficit. Because her students know two languages, they will be able to communicate with many more people and help others as they grow and learn to navigate the world. Instead of letting others feel incomplete, Paty strives to ensure that every one of her students learns how to embrace their culture as they use their knowledge to inform and enhance their community. She trusts the research that shows how students from Catholic schools are more likely to graduate from college, and she helps the students and families at her school decipher the education system, working to overcome application hurdles or figuring out which classes the students should take. Each day, Paty lives to fulfill the dream her parents demonstrate: that when we give of ourselves, we create relationships and communities graced by love and transformed by the unique gifts we share with others.