SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Saldago family came to the United States in the late 1980s and know what it is like to come into a new country without being able to speak English in school.
Fast forward to now, Richard and Fabio Saldago are helping Hispanic families in Springfield by teaching and mentoring their children in their roles as educators and staff at the Springfield Public Schools District.
Fabio Saldago was just 5 years old when he and his mother traveled to the U.S. to start a new life after his father arrived just a year earlier in 1985.
However, when he first enrolled in school as a child for him, it was tough.
“At first, it was hard for me because I didn’t know the language,” Fabio said. “I didn’t have a way to communicate with families, my friends, my classmates. I felt nervous. It cost me. I cried every day I went to school. Not because I didn’t want to go to school but because I couldn’t communicate with them.”
Fabio works as the head custodian for York Elementary but his work doesn’t stop there as he helps new students from Spanish-speaking countries learn English and grow accustomed to their new life in the U.S.
“I remember when I was a young child, just like the kids now,” Fabio said. “I know what they are going through. I know what they are feeling. I can imagine what is going on. So, I say to myself, I need to help them. I want them to feel comfortable, I want them to be happy so that they’re not nervous and cry like I did when I was a child.“
On the other side of town, Fabio’s brother, Richard Saldago, is the community liaison for Pipkin Middle School.
Richard was born in Washington, D.C., and struggled with the language barrier that his older brother faced.
Richard is now in a position where he can help middle schoolers with that same problem.
“It’s going good. I like it a lot,” Richard said. “There’s a lot of families who need help and a lot of times they don’t know that there is someone in the school who can speak Spanish. So, when they come to the school and they seek help and they find someone who can speak Spanish — for them, it is a relief because they know that there is someone there to help them.”
Both brothers say it is an honor to be able to help out students who struggle with the language barrier and set them on a path to success.
“For me, to help out families like that — it’s a privilege,” Richad said.