Friday, October 26, 2012

Can You Describe the Impact of Your Spanish Community Service Learning in 1300 Characters or Less?

by Ann Abbott

I confess to buying women's magazines at the supermarket checkout. While reading my latest impulse buy--the latest issue of Redbook--I read about a contest they are running for a trip to New York. The rules: In 1,300 characters or less, tell us what you're doing to assist your community. 

Here is my entry:

Verb charts. Vocabulary lists. Flags and maps. Is that how you remember Spanish class? 
My Spanish classes at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign are like this: 
Tutor Spanish-speaking children in an after-school program. Coach a Spanish-speaker on a job-application test. Entertain kids while their mother desperately seeks information about her brother who was detained during a recent raid. Create a video showing how to get to a local clinic, explain their services in Spanish, then upload it to a Facebook group for local Latinos. 
Our local community of Spanish-speakers contributes so much to Champaign-Urbana through their hard work, family values, cultural riches and community spirit. Nonetheless, most live in fear, in the shadows. When my students to help these community members in their native language, we show respect for the people, their language and their cultures. 
“I don’t know what to do!” said a woman, in Spanish, grasping a stack of letters from her insurance agency.  “Vamos a ver,” my student said, taking the stack, reading, then calling up the agency. “Just sign this one paper,” my student said in Spanish, “and the hospital will cover your insurance bill.” This scene repeats itself thousands of times because I organize around 150 students every year to work 28 hours each with a dozen community partners. Because of these students, our schools and nonprofits can better serve the Spanish-speaking community and my students become engaged, bilingual citizens. That’s better than just teaching verb charts.
Actually, I had to shorten it even more. It's hard to speak succinctly about the power of Spanish community service learning.

What would your contest entry say?

1 comment:

  1. Ann, this is great. You are raising awareness of the importance of teaching cultural competency and raising the bar on acquiring language skills that can be applied in a profession in meaningful and practical ways.