Patricia Palacios Cortés to be honored as Midday Rotary’s Citizen of the Year
By Lee Daneker
For her dedication in providing high-quality pre-school education to children from very low-income families, Patricia Palacios Cortés, Principal of Centro Infantil San Pablo, has been selected as the 2013 recipient of the Midday Rotary Club of San Miguel’s Citizen of the Year Award. This award is presented annually to the “San Miguel resident who best exemplifies the ideals of service to the community.”
Ms. Palacios has lived in San Miguel de Allende since 1992 and has been involved in education here since 1995. She holds a BA in Business Administration and a BA in Early Childhood Education from the University of Guanajuato. Prior to becoming principal of Centro Infantil, Ms. Palacios worked as an administrator and teacher at the Jean Piaget School in San Miguel.
Patricia Palacios has been selected as the recipient for the 2012 Farley W. Wheelwright Citizen of the Year Award. The ceremony to honor Ms. Palacios will be held on Tuesday, February 12, at 12:30pm at the Hotel Real de Minas. The public is invited.
Centro Infantil San Pablo (official Sigmund Freud Institución de Educación Preescolar) is a free secular preschool that serves children ages three to six. Thanks to the generosity of the late Dick George, his family, and many other individuals and organizations, Centro Infantil has its own building in colonia Providencia. The school is owned by Unidos Somos Familia, AC and is served by a Feed the Hungry kitchen. Lee Daneker, past President of Unidos Somos Familia, describes Ms. Palacios as “One of the finest and most dedicated professionals that I have worked with in a career that spans over 40 years.”
The program that Ms. Palacios and her team have created at Centro Infantil is a rich mixture of academics, plays, educational games, singing, dancing, parades, and off-site visits to the bomberos, Museo Allende, the Toy Museum, and other locations. The school has been described as a “dream” for the disadvantaged children who attend. Twenty children enter each year as three-year-olds, and virtually 100 percent remain for the full three years. The only children who have left early have done so because their families have moved from San Miguel.
Ms. Palacios established means testing to assure that the school serves children from families with the greatest financial need. Only children from families with a total family income of less than 4,000 pesos a month are admitted. She spends many hours encouraging families from Ejido de Tirado, San Miguel’s poorest neighborhood, to apply for admission for their children and conducts home visits to every applicant’s home to assure that they qualify economically. The school is a safe environment in which children excel at learning and are treated with extreme kindness, affection and respect. Anyone visiting the school sees in a heartbeat that they are surrounded by happy children. Centro Infantil recently accepted its first student with disabilities, a four-year-old girl with Down Syndrome. Palacios’ comment on this development in a report to the Board of Directors was as follows, “…this is an opportunity for the children, teachers, parents and me to learn and reach out with our hearts.”
Centro Infantil produces academic results. In June 2011 the Guanajuato Secretary of Education administered standardized achievement tests to all students in the state. Over 70 percent of the Centro Infantil children’s scores were “above average” or “outstanding.” None of their scores were below average. The school was one of three schools in San Miguel to which the Secretary gave a special achievement award. Since strong academic results usually are correlated with high socio-economic status, this performance, which can be directly attributed to Palacios strong leadership, is especially impressive.
The extraordinary results of the school result not only from Palacios’ inspired leadership but also her work with the families. Recognizing the overriding influence of the home environment, she has actively welcomed the parents into the school and encouraged their participation in their children’s learning. She initiated successful parenting classes for the families, because many are young, single mothers whose lives may not have prepared them well for parental responsibilities. Many families are eligible for social services from various governmental organizations, but are unable to negotiate the bureaucracy to obtain them. Patricia Palacios assists these families in obtaining the governmental support for which they are eligible. Assisting the families in this manner is yet another way that she serves the children and the community.
Readers wishing more information about the school can visit its website: www.centroinfantilsanpablo.org.