Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Nick Ludmer: Spanish Community Service Learning Student and Social Entrepreneur

We have so many talented, dedicated and busy (!) Spanish students. I love it when I have the opportunity to discover some of the many facets of a student.

Nick Ludmer is the young man on the right in the picture. I first met Nick in the summer of 2006 when I took a group of students to Barcelona with me for my course, "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities." Nick wasn't in the course with me, but he was with another group of UIUC students studying abroad in Barcelona. Even then, I admired his maturity and positive attitude.

Then early this semester I received an e-mail from him saying that he would like to do an honors project for one of his Spanish courses by working at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in the bilingual education program. I didn't recognize his name on the e-mail, but when he stopped by my office to work out the details for the project, I recognized his face. He told me that he had taken "Spanish in the Community" last semester, really enjoyed the classroom experience and wanted to continue. That alone impressed me because few students actually follow through on their desire to continue working with their community partner after the semester ends.

When I contacted Ms. Julie Healy, the Volunteer Coordinator at BTW, to set up Nick's work, she told me that the teacher Nick had worked with the previous semester was absolutely delighted to have Nick back again this semester. That is absolutely the strongest testimonial for a student's responsibility, character and performace: when the community partner would be happy for him/her to continue working with them.

So this semester I have had the pleasure of reading Nick's reflective pieces about his work in the classroom this semester. I particularly recall his description of returning to the classroom; he was nervous because he had said goodbye to the children, but they welcomed him back with open arms and were truly happy to see him again.

This weekend I was driving on campus and came upon a long line of bicyclists. I slowed down to let them all make their turn and observed the cyclist at the end of the line who was communicating to the others about the traffic and looking out for their safety. Then I told my kids in the back seat, "I think that's my student!" Yes, it was. It was Nick. He's the Co-Director of Illini4000, an organization that bikes across the US and raises money for the American Cancer society. Here is what Nick has to say about it:

"I've attached a picture from our training ride on Saturday of myself and my co-director Jon Schlesinger.

"Ese grupo es una organización que mi amigo y yo empezamos el año pasado. Cada verano, atravesamos el país en bicicletas para ganar dinero para La Sociedad American de Cancer (American Cancer Society), y estabamos entrenando. Fuimos a Allerton Park.

"Es muy divertido. ¡Ud. debe visitar nuestro sitio de web, es completamente nuevo! En el menú de “Media,” hay un extracto de un documentario hecho durante el año pasado. Vamos a mostrar el documentario aquí en campus el 17 de Abril si quiere venir."

Take a look at the great documentary clip Nick mentions.

I plan to donate. I hope you can too!

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