In conjunction with the district's recognition of Constitution Week, a special civics lesson opportunity presented itself at Park Creek. What was disguised as a Constitution Week assembly was actually a surprise celebration for one of the school's most well-loved parapros, "Mr. Carlos" Castaneda, and his recent acquisition of his United States Citizenship.
Students filled the gymnasium on September 20 with posters and cards congratulating Mr. Carlos on his accomplishment. They cheered as he walked in, unassuming of the recognition. State Senator Chuck Payne welcomed the school to the assembly and Assistant Principal Krista Page presented Castaneda with several books. Two classes performed songs.
Castaneda moved from Colombia to the United States in 2000 to be closer to his daughter and began his career with Cobb County Schools the following year. Four years ago, he moved to Dalton and started working at Park Creek. This is his first year working with the special needs classes.
"They are my inspiration," said Castaneda. "Even with limiting conditions, they are always happy. They are always here not thinking about their limitations; they are here to learn. I see their effort to learn every day and that makes me very happy."
Castaneda said he prepared for his citizenship test for nearly a year before driving down to Atlanta for the test and interview. "When you have a test in school, you are nervous," he said. "But when you go to take this test you are very nervous because you don't know which questions they are going to ask and it isn't multiple choice. But if I can do it, others can do it, too."
When he first arrived to the country, Castaneda was excited to know that public education was accessible and there would be new job opportunities for him, even at an age that would be considered "too old" in his home country.
"It's one of the things that makes me so happy to be a U.S. citizen – you have a chance to work; you have a chance to be educated and to be happy," he said. "This is a goal that many, many people want to accomplish, but not everyone can. A lot of people are looking for freedom, but they cannot have it. I hope the students today realize that this is a great privilege they have to live in the United States and they can accomplish many things."