Local High Schoolers Immersed in Spanish at Bowdoin

Story posted October 26, 2006

Sixty local high school students will come to Bowdoin Friday, October 27, 2006, for a day of Spanish immersion and a taste of college life.

Students from Spanish classes at both Brunswick High School and Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham will spend their school day at Bowdoin, touring the campus with Bowdoin student mentors, participating in activities at Quinby and MacMillan houses, and learning about and celebrating Hispanic heritage.

The day's events will be conducted entirely in Spanish.

The campus visit was the brainchild of Candace Myers, a Spanish teacher at Mt. Ararat.

"I was hoping to set up a Spanish immersion day for my advanced students, and also give them an opportunity to experience a bit of the academic and social atmosphere of a college campus," Myers says.

She discussed the idea with Genie Wheelwright, Bowdoin visiting lecturer in Romance languages, who helped facilitate hosting the event on campus and involving Bowdoin students.

In preparation for the day, the 48 students in Wheelwright's Spanish 203 class (Intermediate Spanish I) visited both high schools to become acquainted with the students and engage them in Spanish conversation.

"College can be a little intimidating," notes Wheelwright, whose class is one of seven Service Learning courses offered at Bowdoin during the fall semester. "Bringing our students to the high schools first served as an icebreaker. Then, when the high school students are here on campus, they'll be partnered with Bowdoin student guides, who will give campus tours in Spanish and join in activities also conducted in Spanish. Our students will help demystify the idea of college."

Bowdoin's award-winning Dining Service is also on board, preparing a Hispanic theme meal for the students' lunch. Mayan vegetable stew, Picadillo Cubano Thorne, and churros are just some of the selections on the menu.

The high schoolers will get a taste of college-level cultural studies when they attend a presentation by members of the U.S.-Latino Literature in Spanish class taught by Latin American Studies Program Director Enrique Yepes. The presentation will highlight diversities in culture, worldviews, and languages among Latino groups living in the United States.

"My students are designing original programs that include posters, movies, songs and games — all in Spanish," says Yepes. "The idea is to communicate a better understanding of the Latino presence in the U.S. There is a presentation on Puerto Ricans in New York City, one on Spanglish, another on the history of Latinos in the U.S."

The high school students' day concludes with a salsa dancing lesson with Laurence Miller of Gotta Dance.

"This is a wonderful event with many different facets," says Wheelwright. "It involves Spanish immersion, college aspirations, and service learning. And Bowdoin students are benefiting as well, by having the opportunity to work in the local community and mentor local high school students."

Yepes agrees. "My students will have an opportunity to use their Spanish in an actual context, as opposed to an academic setting, which automatically elevates the quality of the Spanish they are using. And they really enjoy offering a service to the community; the class becomes much more meaningful."

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