Home-grown Hispanic school official now liaison for youth new to Fairfield

It’s painful sometimes for Fairfield High School Assistant Principal Ricardo Calles to recall his childhood as an El Salvadorian immigrant in this city, arriving as a 12 year old and having no English skills while surrounded by American classmates who did.

But thanks to the school system’s English Language Learner (ELL) program designed to help youth like Calles quickly reach fluency, he began to assimilate himself both in school and American culture.

He took to both with enthusiastic zeal that would later serve him well in a rocketing career that saw him after college return to Fairfield to work in the school system that helped him climb the first rungs of his ladder of success.

“I remember how difficult my first year was, but despite that there were people always there willing to support and help me in any way possible.”

“I arrived in the United States in 2006 and I knew minimal English. Just simple words like: ‘hello, thank you, please, dog, cat,’” said Calles.

But Calles, whose inspirational story was recently highlighted with him as a guest speaker at Fairfield North Elementary’s first “grit” inspiration day where he told youngsters about the importance of perseverance, credits his American hometown school system for the foundation of his later success.

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“Fairfield Schools set me up for success as a student. I was provided support that was not just focused on academics.

“From the moment I came to Fairfield, I was embraced by the entire community. Teachers went above and beyond to support me, meet my needs, encourage me and help me figure out not just how to navigate high school but how to succeed in high school and beyond,” said Calles, who after high school earned an undergraduate degree in education from Miami University and then a masters in education leadership from the University of Cincinnati.

His bilingual fluency has proved invaluable as a former Fairfield teacher and sports coach in a district with increasing numbers of students whose native language is Spanish.

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“There has not been a day in this new assistant principal’s job in which I have gone without using Spanish to connect with parents, and/or students in our district. Parents are often surprised.”

Ryan Bellamy, principal at Fairfield High School, described Calles as a “a hard worker, technology savvy, and has done a fantastic job building relationships with our staff, students, and families. You would never know that this is his first year as an assistant principal.”

Bellamy said Calles “is an advocate for our ELL and Hispanic population. Having gone through the ELL Program during his time in the Fairfield school district, it is great to see the passion he has for those students.”

“His ability to communicate with our students, families, and community has helped bridge a communication gap we have had with our growing Hispanic population. I have enjoyed seeing our Hispanic students find him in the hallways, at lunch, and during after-school events to be able to talk and joke with him.”

Calles had many questions as a youngster new to America.

Overall and through the years — in so many ways — the answers were found in his hometown Fairfield where he now resides.

“The answer is coming back to the place that made me and made great things happen for me.”

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