Park City schools outreach assistant embraces diversity
Ryan Summerlin March 8, 2014
Carmela Foote came to the United States in 1991 to study English. She didn’t plan to stay long. That changed within a few month of her arrival. A native of Veracruz, Mexico, and a Park City resident since 2001, she was captivated by North American culture and chose to stay "for a while longer" to become more fluent in the language. That she did! As an Outreach Assistant at both McPolin and Trailside Elementary, she uses her bi-lingual skills and training to help hundreds of at-risk children and low-income families throughout the Park City area.
Born Carmela Garcia, she grew up an only child. She remembers Veracruz life on the beach, watching huge cargo ships navigate the Coatzacoalcos River. After completing school in Mexico, she moved to Orange County in southern California and enrolled in English classes at a community college in Santa Ana. She also earned her G.E.D. (high school equivalent) certification, which gave her more employment opportunities. She took jobs as a nanny to fund her studies, living successively in San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point, San Clemente, Laguna Niguel and Newport Beach.
She moved to Provo, Utah, in 1994 to further her education and worked in retail while she studied at Utah Valley University. She had hoped to enroll at Brigham Young University, but found the nonresident tuition fees prohibitive. She moved to Salt Lake City within the year, where better jobs were available.
She met Earl Foote at a church function in the spring of 1997. "I noticed him right away because he was the only non-Hispanic persons there," she laughs. The couple hit it off immediately and were married four months later. The newlyweds settled in Holladay, a Salt Lake suburb, for a year before buying a house in Tooele. The first of three sons arrived while they lived in Tooele. Ethan, age 14, is the oldest, followed by Isaac, 12, and Zephan, 10.
When Earl, a computer specialist, opened Nexus IT in Park City, he commuted for several months before they made the decision to move here. While her husband built the business, Foote volunteered at her sons’ pre-school and continued her studies at Utah Valley University’s Wasatch campus in nearby Heber. She is working toward a degree in social work, though the process has been sporadic while rearing her children.
In 2005, she was offered a job as a pre-school teacher assistant with the Park City School District. She held that position for six years before being promoted to outreach assistant.
In her new position, Foote finds resources for at-risk students and their families in the Park City area and also teaches parenting and literacy classes. She says one of the biggest problems facing Hispanic families here is that many of the parents are illiterate. "They come from small villages in Mexico, where they didn’t learn to read or write," she explains. "It’s very frustrating and difficult for us and them because they work all day and can’t help their own children with their homework at night. They just don’t have the time during the day to learn English or Spanish. To help mitigate the problem, Foote is promoting parenting and literacy classes in both Spanish and English.
"I really enjoy teaching and working as a liaison for these at-risk children and families in need in the Park City area," says Foote. "I love being able to connect families to resources in the community to improve their quality of life. It’s great to see both the children and their parents achieve their educational goals and fully realize their potential.
"I’m very, very busy all the time," says Foote, who works with several families simultaneously. "Sometimes I’m helping them with medical or financial issues as well. To me, helping them achieve their educational goals is the most satisfying. I am so proud of these parents when they get their G.E.D.s. I think I have a lot of empathy for them because I remember what that was like for me."
Foote is making a difference within Park City’s rich, vibrant Hispanic community and it shows. "I’m really happy with what I’m doing," she concludes.
To learn more about school district outreach services available to at-risk children and families in need, call Foote at 435-659-0727.
- Favorite activities: martial arts (Taekwondo), travel, "watching my kids play soccer"
- Favorite foods: authentic Mexican, Indian, Thai and Japanese
- Favorite authors: "For now, the only reading I have time for are textbooks."
- Favorite music: "I love any upbeat music that keeps me going."
- Bucket list: travel throughout Europe and Asia
Steve Phillips is a Park City-based writer and actor. Send your profile comments and suggestions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org