We have many exceptional girls that attend our community schools who are doing incredible things to support the community and are establishing wonderful lives for themselves, despite the odds stacked against them in their neighborhoods and communities. It is always our greatest pleasure to spend time getting to know the students in the schools where we work. Recently, we were able to visit with Katheryn Dardon, a Senior at Cottonwood High Community School (a United Way of Salt Lake Neighborhood Center) and talk to her about her life goals, personal accomplishments, and advice for her peers. We thought Kathy was so outstanding, we invited her to speak on a panel of high school students for the Women’s Leadership Council signature event, Power of Your Purse. She did a wonderful job.
Katheryn came to the United States from Guatemala City, Guatemala 3 years ago. Her aunt, who was the first in her family to move to the United States of America, is her role model, because she moved to this country alone and now has become a leader for their family. She said that moving to the United States was like completely starting over and her greatest challenge has been learning English, which she is working to perfect so that she can attend a local university. Currently, her family is applying for political asylum and she says that this complicates her goal to go to college because she is unsure if her family will be staying here in the United States or if they will be required to move back to Guatemala. However, regardless of where she ends up living, she insists that she will still go to college and eventually become a doctor. If she stays in the United States, she plans to go to college at the University of Utah or Westminster College.
The importance of an education is something that Kathy learned from an early age. Her mother was an elementary school teacher when they lived in Guatemala and even when she was as young as two years old, her mom would take her to school with her. “She always taught me that I need to be prepared and get as much education as I can,” she said.
Not only does Kathy care about her own academic success, but she cares about the success of other students. She is a member of an extracurricular group called Latinos in Action and when asked what she enjoys most about the program, she said, “We are tutoring some elementary kids and it’s so great to see how you can help the other kids and see how they are progressing because you are helping them.”
After talking with Katheryn for some time, we could see that she was a young woman who is clearly self-assured and focused on achieving her goals, so we wanted to hear more about what she might say to other classmates who are feeling less motivated to do well in school. When asked what advice she would give to her peers that are struggling with school, she said, “I was talking with my mom yesterday and we were saying that for someone to become great, they have to [have] been through big failures, so that they can become someone. I think the example that we give to the other students can be a great impact in their life. But also, if there is not a great example in their life, it would be good to allow them to make mistakes so that they can become someone.”
At United Way of Salt Lake, we are proud of Katheryn and we are impressed with the goals that she has made for herself! She is a first-rate example of someone who is positively engaged in the community and works to LIVE UNITED!
“¡Buena suerte en todo lo que haces, Kathy!”