Seven Clark University students and 20 third- and fourth-graders at Woodland Academy in Main South published a bilingual paperback storybook this fall, “Aventuras (Adventures).” Last semester, Clark students from visiting professor Luisa-María Rojas-Rimachi’s Spanish 127 class met weekly with teachers Danielle Ballon and Lillian Rentas and their students at Woodland Academy to write and illustrate stories. The students produced a 38-page illustrated booklet that includes short stories such as “Party on the moon (“Una fiesta en la luna”), “The worst day ever” (El peor día de la vida”) and “A day at the beach” (“El día en la playa”).
Professor Rojas-Rimachi, inspired by a project by Spanish students at Duke University, proposed an idea to her colleagues in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures; soon she and professor Constance Montross formed a partnership that would not only enhance the academic experience of Clark students learning about language and culture, but one that would build bridges with schoolchildren in the Main South community.
“Constance Montross and I share the desire to work with the community as a very valuable way to learn from that experience and accompany our students in their own cultural exploration,” she said. Rojas-Rimachi said that Montross “has been a pivotal figure for the success of the project.”
Rojas-Rimachi said that the opportunity to work with children from a Latino/Spanish-speaking background was “crucial” for our students. Clark students also had the opportunity to interact with children from Vietnam and Korea.
This is the second year of the partnership with students at Woodland Academy. In the fall of 2009, students in both Spanish classes worked with second and third graders on “Wednesdays in the Fall” (“Miércoles del otono”).
Micki Davis, program coordinator of Clark’s Community Engagement and Volunteering (CEV) Center, helped organize the project, train the students and provide financial support for publishing the storybooks; Casey Quinn, academic technology associate, taught the kids Microsoft Publisher; and Woodland Academy Principal Patricia Padilla provided support each year.
“I found the experience to be invigorating for my students. They felt comfortable sharing pieces of [their] culture…Clark students were consistently encouraging, respectful, and engaging,” said Rentas. “Clark has been an invaluable asset to our school community. I would welcome them again next year and for many more [years] to come.”
According to professor Rojas-Rimachi, the Clark students involved were motivated to exercise their language skills in a real-world setting in a positive way.
Leah Guliasi ’14 said, “I enjoy working with kids and using my Spanish, and this project allowed me to do both. I was able to see how much it meant to the kids because they were always so happy to see us and excited about writing a new story. I hope to find ways to continue to do similar projects with other students.”
Margaret Federici ’12, who is spending her spring semester studying abroad and working with a youth group in the Dominican Republic, said, “The project has really opened my eyes to the importance of a child’s education and to my desire to work in Latin America. Doing two years of the storybook project has helped immensely with my ability in speaking and interacting with Spanish-speaking kids. It is a wonderful way to give back to the community and give the students a boost of self-confidence. I would definitely like to continue the project again when I come back.”
Other students from the Fall 2010 Spanish 127 class are Marie-Claire Walters ’13, Alexandra Pollack ’12, Chloe Meade ’13, Nicholas Gurney ’12, Lorena Sterjanaj ’13, Federici and Guliasi.
Students involved with the 2009 storybook were Laura Strauss ’10, Carlee Clarino ’12, Sam Moody ’11, Molly Marshall ’13, Doug Tyler ’11, Max Rather ’12, Julia Rubin ’12, Isabelle Jaffe ’13, Carson Stevens ’13, Olivia Lotstein ’11, Ariana Foster ’12, Jean Dao ’12, Jenni Adams ’12, Lissa Levine ’13 and Margaret Federici ’12.