DARLINGTON – It was only four years ago when Scarleth Canales Irias only knew how to say “Nice to meet you” and “How are you” in English. She recently received the Chancellor Scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, which is a full cost of tuition and fees.
Canales Irias came to Darlington in 2018 from Honduras with parents Martha Galindo and Francis Canales and sister Enni Canales, who is currently studying at Southwest Tech and brother Cristian, who is seven and currently enrolled at DEMS.
“I am so grateful to have moved to such a welcoming community like Darlington,” Canales Irias said. “Moving to any new place can be very scary but with positive, friendly people, the transition can be much more successful.”
She said that not only does the district have many bilingual staff to help anyone with whatever they need but Darlington also has Cinco de Mayo Festival that celebrates community members of Hispanic heritage.
“This is something I think is very special about the Darlington community.”
Growing up in Honduras, Canales Irias knew she wouldn’t have the same opportunities in her home country as she would in the United States.
“So instead of wishing I was in a different situation, I had to work hard every day to change my destiny. Learning English was my first priority because I needed to understand my classmates and teachers.”
Even though learning English was a difficult challenge for her among many other cultural challenges, she never gave up and always gave her best effort. Learning English gave her the opportunity to meet new friends, like Judith Meister, who helped her learn English and Canales Irias helped Meister with her Spanish.
“She is always patient and kind to me and I am so thankful for our friendship.”
Two of the most important lessons she has learned during her five years in the U.S. is you need to seize positive opportunities that come your way and you need to appreciate what you have in your life.
“Don’t wish for it. Work for it.”
Canales Irias is grateful for the ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers and staff at Darlington who have helped her and other bilingual students so much.
“They have supported me and my classmates millions of times. Just their positivity makes us smile and gives us the support that we need. I feel very blessed to have gone to school here.”
One of her role models is DHS Bilingual Teacher Kalee Crist.
“When I was a child, I already knew that I wanted to become a teacher, but I had never had a role model until I met one of my teachers. I see Miss Kalee Crist as a role model because she was the first person who encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and be involved in sports and activities in school. She has taught me all the English that I know. She has been by my side every step of the way since. I see her as my role model with all the positive characteristics that she has. She always has a smile on her face, she makes us laugh, and she has a positive attitude and a lot of patience.”
Canales Irias has no shortage of extra curricular activities being involved in cross country, track and field, wrestling cheerleading, Spanish Club, National Honor Society, Forensics, D.A.R.E Role Model, L.E.A.D, Fall Musical, ALPHA Wellness Club, just to name a few. She is also a tutor for the third, seventh, and eighth grade bilingual students, participates in the School to Work program working at Holy Rosary Schools as a bilingual teaching assistant and volunteers as an interpreter for law enforcement and at a local farm. She has spoken at several school board meetings, teacher in services, volunteered at Johnson Public Library, done recordings for Human Services and Cinco de Mayo and volunteered at the Manor Fall Cookout.
“Each activity that I have been involved in these four years of high school was because I had my ESL teacher supporting me and encouraging me to be brave and try new activities. When I started getting involved, I felt like I was part of a new family and started to really acclimate to my new surroundings. These are lessons that will serve me well in my future.”
Canales Irias was surprised when she received the scholarship.
“I never thought I would win this scholarship because there were many deserving people. Going to college has always been a big dream for me, and I am so thankful for this opportunity. I am so glad to have my teachers that helped me in this process. I couldn’t have asked for anything else.”
She plans on majoring in Education to become either a Spanish teacher or teach English as a second language. She hopes after graduating to come back to Darlington to teach.
“This community has given me so much, and I want to be able to give back to it.”
Some advice she would give to future bilingual students is embrace learning opportunities, get involved, be positive and step out of their comfort zones.
“There are no limits in life, only the limits we put on ourselves. I tell them to enjoy their high school experience and appreciate everything that they have. I warn them that even though it’s difficult to meet new people if they don’t speak your language, the friendships they can create if they take the first step and are willing to be vulnerable are life-changing. Each of the friends that I have met was very nice to me and patient with my English. Lastly, I would remind them, “Don’t wish for it. Work for it.” Everyone can wish for many things, but the only things we can obtain are what we are actually willing to work for. Buena suerte, y good luck!”.