Since she was a child, Sala Holley has dreamed of making a difference. “I always wanted to open my own school. It has been my goal since I was 12 years old.” Her passion to change lives, coupled with a love for children, spurred her to become a special education teacher.

One day, Sala received a call about her oldest son, Sean, who was in kindergarten. The superintendent told her she needed to find him another school. “I couldn’t understand why his teacher didn’t take the time to figure out what was happening,” Sala explains. “I was frustrated.” Horrified by the failure of the school to care for Sean’s needs, she decided to resign from her teaching job and homeschool her children. “As a teacher, providing a good curriculum was something I always wanted to do for my children. I wanted to be their teacher because I knew, out of all teachers, I was the best for them.”

Upon becoming a single parent, Sala needed to return to work. “I decided to get a job in the private school sector thinking that it would be a safer and more caring environment for my children. Unfortunately, while it may have been caring and safe, the curriculum was not up to par. There were books dated from 1973 and the materials just weren’t there. I spent my own money to provide copies for my second grade classroom. It was difficult. I knew that if I wasn’t able to give the students who I taught what I wanted, my children weren’t getting the education they really needed.”

Sala met the Selby family, who work at Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School (PALCS). In PALCS, she found a model that could provide an excellent education for her four children, while allowing her to play a critical role. Sala’s passion would drive her to keep going, even if it only changed the life of one child.

Sala explains that PA Leadership’s students receive “a better education, more elaborate and challenging. You get to know your child’s strengths and weaknesses younger so when they reach high school, you’re not trying to figure out what is happening with your child. You know all of it now. We also talk about values and morals. Treat someone the way you want to be treated. Be respectful. By holding students to a high standard and showing them love and trust, we inspire them to achieve academically and empower them to press towards the mark.”