By Kay Sweeney, Associate Program Facilitator
Betty Canton Self is a woman (pictured) who has never allowed her heart or feet to stay still. She has been a Presentation Associate for more than twenty years. After leaving Texas, where she lived after escaping the civil war in El Salvador, she moved to California. She has never stopped moving since she arrived. She sees her work as an example of the Presentation motto “Not Words but Deeds”.
In San Francisco, she lived and worked with Sisters of the Presentation as part of the Sanctuary Movement. Betty, along with the Sisters of the Presentation worked to help to pass the Temporary Protected Status and the 1996 Immigration Reform. She was part of the Central American Refuge Center that advocated for Central Americans rights to political asylum, and worked with religious leaders and the Central American community to advocate for immigration reform.
Her experience in El Salvador helped her respond to the needs of the community. The Catholic Worker, where they provided halfway houses for families, the Support Group Training Project, the Coalition of Family Support Resource Centers, and the Family Support Network for Immigrants and One Million Voices for Legalization were some of the services she either established or supported. In partnership with several communities, she has helped to pass legislation including The Dream Act or Access to Higher Education.
She was part of Dream Team Two that worked on the planning of the Lantern Center. She participated in programs supporting its mission and was a member of the Board. Every Monday at 3:00 PM there is a Zoom session in Spanish for parents to help them with the education of their children. On Wednesday, it is in English. A program for Reading is held for adults and children. Betty has a hand in all of this.
In 2007, while Executive Director for the Interfaith Coalition of Immigrant Rights, Betty received a Master of Arts degree in Education and a Master’s degree in Theological Studies. She has also received several other certificates and awards.
Today Betty’s focus is on education and helping people become self-sufficient. As Director of Education and Parent Engagement at Urban Services YMCA, she is guiding children to look for opportunities to become self- sufficient adults. Her role promoting education and creating access to opportunities is key to the future of our communities.
With guidance approximately forty women were able to study and obtain Child Care Center licenses through City College. One of these students is an Adult Math teacher at UCSF today.
What does Betty do when she is not tending to the needs of others? Betty stays balanced by gardening, meditation and listening to music. When she goes to bed, she sleeps. Betty believes that everyone has the power to teach their own wisdom: Everybody is a teacher and a student.