At SOAR we believe every child has something they can teach. A new club at SOAR Grace Hill was built off that idea and has turned into something truly special.
Bilingual Buddies is a club that is made up of two kinds of students. Half of the students were raised speaking only English, and the other half call Spanish their first language. Our bilingual students have taken on the role of teacher, and with it, the responsibility to share their knowledge with their peers through one on one and small group interactions.
Beyond the basics of Spanish greetings and common phrases, the club has become a forum for understanding and perspectives. One participant, Joel, shared with the group about his experience learning English as a kindergarten student, 3 years ago. He spoke of the frustrations, the confusion, and the difficulties he endured entering a world where he had to figure things out on his own. It opened up a chance for other students to empathize and to cheer Joel on for what he has accomplished.
“The reason i signed up is because I want to help people to speak in Spanish… if they don’t know words, we help them with whatever they need. If you want to explore the world, like go to Mexico, and you don’t talk Spanish, how will you talk to them? When I was in kindergarten, they taught me how to talk in English. It was hard, but there was one girl who only talked in Spanish too… we helped each other with learning,” Joel said.
The club is being overseen by 2nd year staff member, Hector Contreras, who excitedly jumped at the chance to connect with students within this club. Hector himself is bilingual, having moved to the United States and learned English during his 2nd grade year. “It’s an opportunity for kids to have a platform to talk about their experiences and help non-Spanish speaking students learn Spanish... and for them to just care about the different cultures surrounding them. They’re now aware of the differences but can realize we are all human,” says Hector.
Gypsy, a 2nd grader shared, “I wanted to understand my friends who speak Spanish. I am enjoying it, and it’s fun to tell people my name. It’s important to be able to understand people around the world, and here [in Northwest Arkansas].”
Students have lots of ideas for where to take the club next, as they take ownership of Bilingual Buddies’ potential. Plans for next week include making quesadillas from a recipe in Spanish. Skills in mathematics, cooking, language and teamwork will all be utilized…. And it will result in quesadillas!