Valdosta Daily Times

Features

November 19, 2012

American by the grace of God

LAKE PARK — While many of Patricia Salgado’s countrymen and women see the United States as the land of milk and honey and cross its borders in troves, both legally and illegally, Salgado says she and her family was imported into the U.S. by the will of God.

Salgado, a Migrant Student Services Provider for Lowndes County Schools, says she and her family have resided in the U.S. for roughly ten years, but she only gained citizenship a couple of years ago.

Before she began work in TESOL (Teacher of English to Speaker of Other Languages) for area migrant education programs, she and her husband, Isaac, enjoyed successful lives 21 hours and roughly 1,280 miles away in the northeast Mexican city of Monterrey, Nueva Leon.

“People always ask me, ‘Why South Georgia and why Valdosta,’ ” says Salgado. “I tell them that’s the first thing I’ll ask God when I see him.”

While Salgado may not expect to find a full answer in this lifetime, as to why she and her family were beckoned from the desert-metropolis of Monterrey to the sultry swamps of South Georgia, she’s been receiving hints. This past October, the state of Georgia honored Salgado with it’s 2012-13 TESOL Public Service Award.

Though not a translator, her nurture-based approach to education and compassionate heart may have put her on the Department of Education’s radar. Last year, Salgado and her husband agreed to foster two children while the birth parents retooled their own lives.

Law enforcement had begun the process of revoking custody of a child from a family with whom Salgado had worked through Lowndes County’s Migrant Education Program, she says. But she and her husband felt that the birth parents, a young couple in their twenties, simply needed a second chance to raise their two children.

“Long story short, I ended up with the kids,” says Salgado. “I know some families deserve to have their kids taken away, but not this family.”

The Salgados fostered the couple’s two children for six months. This December will be the one year anniversary of the kids return to their birth parents.

“I believe that we can’t tell people about Jesus without showing them his hands and feet,” said Salgado. “Even though I don’t pass out pamphlets here at school, because I’m not allowed to, I try to project a Christ-like image to everyone around me.”

While today we have a beautiful portrait of a woman who does so much for our community, one must examine the layers and brush strokes to determine what the artist intended when Salgado was painted into a quiet South Georgia canvas.

One of seven children, Salgado says she has four brothers and two sisters. She says the girls all have college degrees, two brothers have tech degrees and two others have earned bachelors degrees.

After college at Montterey’s century-old, La Escuela Normal Miguel F. Martínez, and returns to the university to perfect her English, Salgado says she went on a mission trip to Europe. She says she believes God was preparing her for a life in ministry as she reflects on the months she spent reaching out to groups in Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Gibraltar, and others.

One day, the mission trip was put into perspective when three Anglos attended a service at her church in Monterrey. The men were from Bainbridge, Ga., and members of “Lifeline Ministries.”

Salgado says the visitors were there looking to recruit seminary students for studies in the states. Her husband was one of the students selected for the program, which offered scholarships to seminaries in the U.S.

“We were living in a big city,” says Salgado of her hometown, a city with a metro population of 5.3 million. “My husband was a chemical engineer and we both had good jobs. We’re here because God called us to ministry.”

Salgado says she had to Google “Georgia” and “Albany,” after she found out that her husband had been selected for the Lifeline program.

“I just said, ‘we need to pray,’” says Salgado.

She says she was unsure if  her family could afford to relocate themselves on such short notice, but her husband’s brother, a chemical engineer in Detroit, absorbed all of the moving expenses.

“We can write a book about our first year, because we witnessed miracle after miracle,” says Salgado. “We had to adjust to the U.S. system and we took cuts to our salaries. But God was so wonderful.”

The Salgado’s initially came to the U.S. on a religious visa, which meant that only her husband was allowed to work here and obtain a social security number. Salgado began working at a Migrant Education Program in Echols County, after finally receiving a work visa, but she moved to Lowndes County because her daughters were attending school here.

Salgado says each member of her family has experienced a healthy dose of culture shock but she says it’s home now.

Her daughters, Ana and Daire, lobby for trips to Monterrey over Disney World, their parent’s choice for vacations and the place were they spent their honeymoon. But she says the girls too feel that the U.S .is home now.

“They miss it there, but they love it here too because Monterrey never rests,” says Salgado. “When we would visit Monterrey, I would ask them if they wanted to stay. They would say, ‘no, we’re country girls mamma.’”

She says she considered the U.S. to be her family’s home long before recent approval of her citizenship application.

“I love this community and I feel honored to work with Lowndes County’s educators, because they care about the children and have a passion for their work,” says Salgado.

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