Showing posts from October, 2008

My Means of Transportation

By Claire Pescheret

I do not have a car down here on campus; therefore, I have had to find alternate means of transportation to and from my community work. I volunteer at Booker T. Washington Elementary which is located at 606 E Grove St., about 18 blocks northeast of my apartment (from which I usually leave). This distance is definitely walk able, but with my schedule there is no time to waste on walking thirty minutes to and from Booker T. Washington. I brought my bike to school this year, hence this has been my main means of transportation, instead. It has proven to be very fast and useful for the times I volunteer.

Having a bike down at school has been fun, but I do have another item to care for. This is not a bad thing…I love making sure things are nice!! I am just not used to bicycle care, because my main means of transportation is a car in my suburban hometown. I have had to worry about a place to store it (As of now, it sits in a hallway of my apartment…I think my roommates don’…

Refugee and Immigrant Status of Students

By Claire Pescheret

This week in class we discussed how political issues effecting refugees and immigrants may be reflected in some of the classrooms or place in which we are volunteering. A particular part of this discussion that interested me was if we could tell if people we work with were adequately dressed and taken care of at home.

I related this topic specifically to the group of pre-k four year olds who I had worked with immediately before class. I made this instant connection, because it is actually been something I have purposefully observed in these children. Before volunteering at BTW, I figured that I would most likely see some evidence of poorly cared for students; therefore, I kept my eyes open when I first walked in those double doors. I was actually surprised at what I found, though. All of the children seemed dressed in newer clothing that fit them and was appropriate for the temperature outside. I also assumed that some of the children may not be properly fed at home,…

Spanish Community-based Learning Influences Student's Career Path

Like I always say, I love hearing from former students. I am always so impressed by their success and drive.Molly McElhern took "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" with me in the spring of 2008. Well, here are her own words:"I was in Spanish & Entrepreneurship with you last spring and I volunteered at Booker T. Washington School with Mrs. Carey in the art classroom. I truly enjoyed your class, and am hoping you might be able to help me create a marvellous class of my own to share with students."I am currently teaching in a public school in the southwest Chicago suburbs with a Transitional Bilingual (Spanish) certificate. I teach the Bilingual program for pre-K through second graders and feel so fortunate to truly love my job. One condition of the Type 29 certificate requires that I get my regular teaching certificate within 6 years. I am hoping to do that through Northeastern Illinois University.
"While interviewing for Transitional Bilingual teaching posit…

Language Issues and Spanish Community-based Learning

In any community-based learning course, you have to be sure that students actually have the skills to be able to benefit the community partner. If students are setting up a local area network for the computers at a community organization, like a graduate student described at the last "Campus-Community Summits" workshop, they have to actually get that network up and running as promised.

But when you're dealing with a second language and community-based learning work that is not based on a concrete project, students' skills are sometimes harder to assess. Is their Spanish actually good enough to help the community partners? Does their language performance in the classroom truly reflect their capabilities in a real-world setting with native speakers? How many or what kind of mistakes are allowable before communication with a non-English speaker breaks down? Sometimes it's hard to tell.

Our SPAN 232 students wrote letters to a second-grade classroom in Los Angeles, and…

Interview with Jessica Horn of ACCIÓN Chicago

By Carolyn Kloecker, Span 232 student

This past week I completed an assignment for my Business Communications class (SPCM 211) which was to interview someone in a field that I am interested in working for in the future. I asked her many questions about the organization, and lots of information can be found on their website This organization is a Community Partner with Spanish & Illinois, and has an extensive connection with the Spanish-speaking community in the Chicagoland area. Here are a few of the questions and answers from Jessica:

Is ACCIÓN a fairly new organization? How did it begin?
ACCIÓN Chicago started in 1994, but the parent organization, ACCIÓN was started in 1961. It is the largest micro-lending organization, and it began in Venezuela, and took root in the U.S. in 1991.
How do loan officers communicate with clients?
Mostly by phone, as people call in to the office to get a loan for their small business. The website is also a main form of communicati…

You can speak to me in English

By Claire Pescheret
I have been speaking Spanish for about 10 years throughout my schooling, and I believe I have a good understanding of how to speak and pronounce. Yet, I have discovered that the students who I have worked with at Booker T. Washington Elementary are very perceptive on what my native language is.

My first experience with this phenomenon was in a pre-k classroom. At first, I spoke all in Spanish to the teacher and the students. Thus, the children addressed me in Spanish. Later on, the teacher explained something to me in English and some of the children overheard. Immediately, they began to speak to me in the bit of “Span-glish” they knew. It amazed me that they picked up on this so quickly, and adapted their speech.

I had a similar experience in the first grade classroom I volunteered in. In this instance, when speaking to the children, I mixed up my Spanish words a little, causing the children to not understand what I was trying to say. These students, being a …

Ethnicity in the school classroom

By Claire Pescheret

Thus far, I have volunteered with multiple grade levels at Booker T. Washington Elementary in order to make up the hours I missed during the first few weeks of school. I have volunteered in a pre-k classroom, a first grade classroom, and a fifth grade classroom. It has been very interesting to observe the differences between these ages.

Primarily, the ethnicity combination of the students has varied in each classroom. The pre-k room was a composed of entirely Spanish speaking ethnicities. They were also not very proficient at speaking English. Their class was in 90% Spanish and 10% English. The first grade room was also entirely composed of students of Spanish speaking ethnicities. These students were a bit more proficient in English. I played a game with the most English proficient of the class to teach them how to spell English words. Only three of them were able to speak and spell the basic words. In the fifth grade classroom was presence of the first Af…

Food Drive

Although in community-based learning we differentiate between charity and social justice, that certainly doesn't mean that charity is never appropriate.

My kids' school is participating in the Eastern Illinois Foodbank's food drive, and my kids are really excited to particpate and help out, especially after they learned that 40% of the people who benefit from the food they distribute are kids.

I don't have any information on hunger in the local Latino population, but I do know from working and translating at BTW's school registration that a lot of families receive free lunches. Things are even tighter right now, so that must be affecting the diet and nutrition of a lot of people that our students work with.

Want to help?

Click on the "Team Up" link and get your friends or club together to act on this.
Get some food yourself and drop it off at one of the sites listed on the homepage.
If you have food but no time to drop it off at those sites, you can drop it off…

Distinguished Teacher/Scholar Project Underway

For my Distinguished Teacher/Scholar project, this semester I am organizing Community-Campus Summits.

Val Werpetinski and I have invited community leaders from Champaign-Urbana and Chicago to come to campus and talk to faculty about the communities that they represent. So far, this is what has happened:

Summit 1 focused on leadership and was held on October 8. Panelists were (from left to right) Hattie Paulk from the Champaign Unit 4 Family Information Center, Guadalupe Abreu from the East Central Illinois Refuguee Mutual Assistance Center, and Ben Barbieri from ISS, Inc. We spent the first hour listening to the panelists talk about leadership issues in our community, then we split into small groups for the second hour to delve deeper into how we can best engage students in learning through community-campus connections. Other representatives of community organizations in the audience included Cristina Medrano of Hope Community Health Center and Lynn Peisker, Volunteer Connections Coordi…

Social Network Site for the Scholarship of Engagement

Val Werpetinski always does great stuff on our campus related to community-based learning and the scholarship of engagement. Now she has done something else that goes beyond our campus. She set up a social networking site for the scholarship of engagement.Go to up or sign in.Sign up for the group called "Engaged Illinois."You don't have to be from Illinois to be in the group. You will get great updates from Val on all kinds of opportunities and resources related to community-based learning and community engagement. In fact, the latest thing Val posted on the blog was about the MacJannet Prize. (I'm thinking about nominating "Spanish & Illinois," even though it looks like they might be more interested in projects that have really big numbers of students participating. I think S&I is big, but it can't compare to some of the campus-wide initiatives other universities have.)
It's also a great way to be part of a communit…

Looking for Students to Translate at Central High School's Parent-Teacher Conferences

I just received an e-mail from Ms. Michelle Shmikler ( from Central High School. She needs people to translate for Spanish-speaking parents at their parent-teacher conferences. Here is the specific information:

"Conference times are Thursday, October 30 (5 till 8 pm) and Friday, October 31 (8 till noon)."

SPAN 232 students, you can use this opportunity to make up any missed CBL hours from this semester. Or you can do it just to have a great experience.

It is SO important that parents be able to communicate with their children's teachers. Imagine all the lost opportunities to cooperate to improve the students' education if the parents cannot communicate effectively with the teacher. And these parents really want to help their children to do their best.

Click here and scroll down to see a map for how to get to the school.Click here to see some useful vocabulary for the conferences.Click here to see what Liz (a student from l…

Letter Writing Campaign to Los Angeles Second-Graders

I was delighted to find a letter in my mailbox this morning from a little girl in Los Angeles who wrote a letter in Spanish and is looking for someone to write back to her. She's a student in Mr. Villarreal's second grade classroom. He had the great idea to have his students write a letter to Spanish departments across the US. Not only does that help them with their writing, it also encourages his students to consider college for themselves.

Click here to read the letters from Darline and Mr. Villarreal.

So, let's write back!

Every SPAN 232 student should write an individual letter in class. The TAs will collect the letters, give them to me, and I will send them back to Los Angeles.

TAs: please give your students a piece of departmental letterhead to write on. I think the children would like to receive something "official" from our department.

As you write, follow these instructions, please:

1. Tell something about yourself and the U of I.
2. Tell something abou…

Mateo Ossman: Former Spanish CBL Student Works through the Current Financial Crisis

And when I say works "through" the crisis, that's literally what I mean. Mateo says that he's putting in 70-80 hours a week at his job at Northern Trust in downtown Chicago, helping clients (old and new) to manage their money during this time of financial upheaval. Those are long hours, sure, but he still has a job while many people in the financial sector (especially with flashier firms) are losing their jobs.
Mateo and his fiancee (Danielle Tripicchio) came down for the football game over the weekend, and he and I met up at Espresso Royale. Personally, it was really great to see Mato again. And for students, he shared some information that I think could benefit you.

Background: Mateo majored in accounting here at the U of I and took Spanish classes. He spent a year in Barcelona. During his senior year he took SPAN 332 "Spanish & Entrepreneurship," did his community-based learning work at ECIRMAC, and wrote a case study (with two other students) a…

Mi Pueblo

By Claire Pescheret, Span 232 student

In order to catch up with my hours, I attended a Mi Pueblo conversation table this evening. Mi Pueblo is “a relaxed but organized venue” where Spanish speaking students can come together and practice Spanish. Discussion is guided but very general and informal. It was my first time experiencing this type of language practice. I really enjoyed the hour I spent!

There were five of us total, including the student in charge. Everyone was there for a different reason, which was very interesting. Myself and one other girl were there in order to make-up hours for Spanish 232. There was another boy there who had graduated and was coming to the conversation table meetings just to practice his Spanish to help him in his travels. The last member was a senior, who again was just there for practice. No wonder these two gentlemen use this for practice; it was very helpful! The small group made me feel very comfortable. Each of us was of var…

Discussion Question on Facebook about CBL

Since Marcos Campillo set up the Facebook Group, "Students of Spanish Community-based Learning SPAN 232/332," I decided to finally take the plunge and join Facebook. It's fun! (All my students already knew that, I know...) Marcos has posted a discussion question that I'd love to see the answers to: How do you plan to use your CBL acquired skills in the future? If you're in the group, let us know your answer. If you are a current or former student of SPAN 232 and/or 332, join the group and let us know how you are using what you learned through community-based learning already.

Survey: should we keep the diarios digitales in the future?

Spanish 232 "Reflexiones Orales" Problems

By Jim Pierson, Spring 2008 Span 232 student

I took Spanish 232 during the spring '08 semester. For me, it was the best Spanish class I've taken at this university, and I have taken many in the last four years. As such, I have kept up with the Spanish & Illinois Blog and with A Través De La Corriente, the blog my old professor Marcos keeps. Reading through the posts this semester, I learned of the problems current students were having with the diarios digitales.

For me the diarios digitales, they were one of my favorite parts of Span 232! They were challenging but I think they were so valuable for learning the language. I think one of the faults of the Spanish program here is there aren't enough times students are forced to speak Spanish. In most classes, students find any way they can to use English instead of Spanish, something that is frustrating for those that really want to learn the language. Finishing a minor here, I can read and write Spanish very well, but…

A busy week!

By Claire Pescheret, Span 232 student

Finally getting around to blogging…what a stressful week!! I am sorry I have not updated sooner, but there has been a lot going on in my life recently. The craziness began last weekend in celebration of my 21st birthday with friends from school, friends from home, as well as my family. It was lovely to see and be surrounded by people who cared about me so much. I, then, was welcomed back to school on Sunday with the absolute joy of studying for Physiology and Biochemistry exams. Let’s just say the library started to feel like home after day three… I survived, though, which is a feat in and of itself!

As a result of my diligent preparation of these exams, I did not get to volunteer earlier in the week. I finally began today, though!! It was amazing! I volunteered with Ms. Madrigal in her pre-k classroom at Booker T. Washington Elementary School. The students are all of Spanish speaking decent, hence the class is taught in 90% Spanish and 1…

Liz: UIUC Book Club Pick Features International Service

Hello everyone! I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, Ann asked me to talk about a project I am working on. We both thought it was relevant to Spanish 232, so I’m coming back briefly as a guest blogger.

Right now I am working at the Office of Volunteer Programs and they asked me to be a student representative on the Committee for One Book One Campus (OBOC can be found at ). For those of you that are unfamiliar with this committee, what they do is each year they pick a book for all students to read. Most of the new and incoming students receive the book for free, (otherwise you can pick it up at the Illini Union Bookstore). The committee also plans events throughout the year on topics related to the book. This year’s book is called Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. The novel is a true story about how the author (Kidder) came to know Dr. Paul Farmer. The reason that I wanted to tell all of you about this book is because…

UIUC Library Offers Trial Access to Great Database

At the University of Illinois we have one of the best libraries in the nation, and I'm fascinated to see how it is leading the way in the transition from traditional library usage (browsing books on the shelf) to digital usage.

This morning we received the message below, and I quickly checked out the "Latino American Experience" link. (You have to be affiliated with the University of Illinois to use it.) I will definitely use many of its resources to enrich my community-based learning courses. It can provide much-needed background information so that students can understand the broader context surrounding the Latino immigration pattern they see in Champaign-Urbana.

Here's the e-mail:

The UIUC Library has a trial for Greenwood's American Mosaic databases until November 30th. To access the modules use the link below. For product information, go to their website:

> African American Experience
> American Indian Experience
> Lat…

Job Recruiting

I'm pasting below an e-mail that we recently received in the Dept. of Spanish, Italian & Portuguese.

CBL students: if you apply, remember to take Kelly's advice and talk up your work in SPAN 232 or 332!

Subject: Opportunities with the D. E. Shaw group

I wanted to be sure to let you know that the D. E. Shaw group invites UIUC students to apply for a position with the firm. In an effort to ensure we're reaching all interested undergraduate and graduate students, I was hoping you might be able to pass along the email below. I've included details about the firm, as well as information on how to apply for an interview. If you have the chance, please forward this message on to students in the Department of Spanish, Italian & Portuguese.

Thanks so much for your help.

Sincerely, Bhandavi Chandrashekar
The D. E. Shaw group --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[Subject line:] Opportunities…

UIUC Spanish Community-based Learning Now Has Facebook Group

Thanks, Marcos, for creating a group on Facebook.

Group: Students of Spanish Community-based Learning Courses SPAN 232/332Link:
We'd love to have current and past students of SPAN 232 and 332 join the group and start a dialogue.
I would especially love to hear from former students. I remember you all! Ann


By Mujtaba Akhter, Span 232 student

My transportation to Champaign Central H.S. is my very own car: 2004 Toyota Corolla LE, Silver, 4Cylinders, Automatic, Power windows and doors, Cruise control, AM/FM Stereo, CD Player, A/C, Driver/Passenger dual air bags, Cloth seats, and a Highway-estimated 36 mpg – quite fuel efficient if I say so myself. I get routine oil changes, swapped in new tires last year, and had the brake pads replaced this summer. I think it's always important to be able to get my community volunteering with reliability. I wouldn't want my car to break down in the 2-mile drive to the high school. However, if God would like to invoke his wrath upon me, I do have the MTD buses to transport me to and from the high school. I am not such a fan of the bus system on campus, so I would rather walk, but hopefully I won't have to deal with such a situation.

I volunteer during the same time slot as another student in my Spanish232 course on Tuesdays, so she catches a ri…


By Mujtaba Akhter, Span 232 student

Hey. How's it going? My name is Mujtaba Akhter and I am currently a senior at the University of Illinois studying Economics. This semester, I am enrolled in Spanish 232 (Spanish in the Community) primarily because I would like to keep up my language skills after studying abroad in Latin America. The university offers a variety of courses in the Spanish department; however, this seemed to be one of the only ones, if not the only one, in which I could have direct conversations with natives of Spanish-speaking countries. At the same time, I was highly motivated by the fact that I would be helping out in the community with students who could really use the extra attention.

I was originally signed up to tutor at the Booker T. Washington Elementary School, but after attending orientation, I came upon the realization that I would not do so well with kids. I have patience for more adult subject matters, but for some reason, I'm really not sure I ha…

Team Projects from "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" Help During Job Interviews

I just heard from Kelly Lusson, one of the many terrific students in my Spanish & Entrepreneurship (SPAN 332) course in the spring of 2008. She tells me that she's living and working in Tulsa, OK now and that she is "working as a director of sales and catering for Hilton here. The Latin American population is very high in Tulsa and English/Spanish fluency is highly sought after."

SPAN 332 continues with SPAN 232's community-based learning but the content of the course is about social entrepreneurship. Last semester I added a team project for the first time, and each team had to implement an actual community-based project. Kelly's team raised funds to buy books in Spanish for the Latino students in Booker T. Washington Elementary School.

Kelly says that taking an entrepreneurship, doing community-based learning and working on a "real" team project are not just good learning experiences, they help when you look for a job.

Here are Kelly's words:


Girl Scouts Meetings

By Carolyn Kloecker, Span 232

Moving on through the semester, thus far I have worked at 2 girl scout meetings with other volunteers from 232, as well as some organizational meetings and a few recruiting events. At the first meeting with the girls, we did some simple activities that teach the girls about the main purpose of girl scouts. This consists of the Girl Scout Promise which is: "On my honor, I will try, to serve God, and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law" or "Por mi honor, yo trataré: De servir a Dios y a mi patria, Ayudar a las personas en todo momento, Y vivir conforme a la Ley de las Girl Scouts." First we read this promise (in Spanish and English), and then we colored pictures of the hand sign that is done with the Girl Scout promise.

At our second meeting, we worked on what the promise means. I created a small worksheet so that the girls could draw what they think it is to "serve God", "serve my cou…

Volunteering with Span 232

By Claire Pescheret. Spanish 232 I have yet to begin my volunteering at any school.Yet, I am hoping to extend myself in many different areas for the remainder of the semester.I am scheduled to help at Booker T. Washington Elementary, as well as CentralHigh School (I have included images of the school, because this is where I expect to volunteer this most.).Additionally, I plan to attend the conversation tables at La Casa.Through these efforts, I will attempt to gain as close to 28 hours as possible. Through my volunteering, I am very eager to help others.For me, volunteering is a personal delight.I get so much self-gratification out of merely helping others.Therefore, I cannot wait to begin my work.Additionally, I am interested in the exposure I will gain to differing cultures of the new people I will be surrounded by.I hail from a predominately white, Catholic community, which has left me somewhat sheltered.Yet, my parents have a love of travel, and hence, I have been blessed to …

Teaching and CBL

I just touched base with several former CBL students: Karen Trower, Ashley Mazzola and Amy Huckstadt (pictured on the left with her cousin visiting Mayan ruins in Honduras). They all studied a year in Barcelona, took SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community" and worked in school settings or at the Refugee Center, and graduated from our program in the teaching of Spanish. Now they're all teaching Spanish in Illinois high schools. Congratulations, chicas! I'm sure that they are all excellent teachers, and for many reasons, but I'd like to think that their CBL experiences helped them in this regard. This is how I think CBL can help students who plan to be high school Spanish teachers: 1. Language. These girls all had the benefit of a full year immersion in Spain. Students who come back from Barcelona always have good language skills as well as coping skills for when they find themselves in linguistic "hot water". (That happens all the time when you are abro…

My transportation to Girl Scouts (Carolyn)

By Span 232 student Carolyn Kloecker

I thought I might talk about the transportation I use to get to my Community Based Learning activities. Working with Girl Scout troops, every Monday we first go to the Girl Scout office which is south of campus. This is much too far to walk, but not too bad on a bike. I've biked there once, but usually after being at the office on Mondays for about an hour (4-5pm), we go directly to Shadow Wood to work with the girls in the troop (about 5-6:30pm). This transportation is with other cars or with our coordinator in her car.

When I go in the future, I actually plan to either ask for a ride from another volunteer in the class, or ride a bus to the Girl Scout office. People working with this organization have been great about accomodating me, even if I don't really have access to a car. The bus should be a good option because I think it goes right past the office, and then getting to Shadow Wood will always be by car. It isn't as complicated as…

Spanish & Illinois Internship Leads to Full-Time Job Offer

I just got off the phone with Kelley Sheehan, a student with whom I have worked for the past four years. We talked about her senior honors thesis, and she let me know that she had been offered a full-time position with the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in downtown Chicago when she graduates in May.
Congratulations, Kelley!
I think her trajectory is a model for other students to follow. (I just wish she could have studied abroad for an entire academic year...) If I have forgotten anything, I'll trust Kelley to fill in the gaps for me.
FRESHMAN YEAR. 1. Took "Spanish & Entrepreneurship," the pilot course which I co-taught with Darcy Lear and worked in the community at Booker T. Washington Elementary School. 2. Did a short summer course in Barcelona.
3. Did a "Spanish & Illinois" Summer Internship at the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

SOPHOMORE SUMMER. The Chamber was so impressed with Kelley that they hired her out of pocket to return to work w…