Elementary students say “hola” to a new after school program

Mackenzie+Wisneski+%28left%29+and+Katie+Henricksen+%28right%29+discuss+new+ideas+for+language-related+games.
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Elementary students say “hola” to a new after school program

Mackenzie Wisneski (left) and Katie Henricksen (right) discuss new ideas for language-related games.

Mackenzie Wisneski (left) and Katie Henricksen (right) discuss new ideas for language-related games.

Photo taken by Kaitlyn Ryan

Mackenzie Wisneski (left) and Katie Henricksen (right) discuss new ideas for language-related games.

Photo taken by Kaitlyn Ryan

Photo taken by Kaitlyn Ryan

Mackenzie Wisneski (left) and Katie Henricksen (right) discuss new ideas for language-related games.

By Kaitlyn Ryan, Pleasant Valley High School

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This year, Cody Elementary School began implementing a language program after school. The participants will begin learning a foreign language long before their peers, giving them an advantage in the future.

The idea emerged when a pioneering parent contacted Laurie Brasche, the principal at Cody, and Thomas Lovejoy, a high school Spanish teacher, with the intent of exposing her child to language.

The first language class is offered in 8th grade; Lovejoy and Brasche worked to find a way to bring the curriculum to elementary students. After the pair worked out the logistics and how best to implement it, the new language program was born.

Elementary students meet on Thursdays after school with high school Spanish students who volunteer their time and experience. Senior Katie Henricksen adores the opportunity to share her passion with the younger students. “Through taking Spanish classes at PVHS, I have found what I am passionate about,” she said. “Maybe one of the kids who I am now teaching Spanish will end up loving it as much as me!”

While Lovejoy is overseeing the project, he gave most of the credit to the high school students who volunteered to conduct it. “They are really the ones that are ensuring the success of the program,” he said. Each week, the knowledgeable volunteers design their own games and other activities based off of Lovejoy’s basic curriculum outline.

Currently, the program is limited to one language, Spanish, at one of the district’s seven elementary schools. Lovejoy and the student volunteers hope for it to expand in the coming years; however, the expansion of this project is largely dependent on student and parent interest. If there are enough parents contacting school officials and enough high school students to run the programs, then adding more languages or elementaries will be possible.

Henricksen believes the program will spread further due to the importance of learning a second language. “It’s super valuable to know a foreign language–especially nowadays because our country is constantly growing with more people and more cultures,” she said. Her thoughts echoed Lovejoy’s view on the subject.

“I do believe that learning a second language allows children to communicate and connect with more people,” Lovejoy said. “By communicating with and understanding more people, children are able to appreciate diversity even more.”

Lovejoy also cited many more benefits of learning a second language: academic improvement in other areas, increased job opportunities, ease of travelling, and above all, the opportunity to create bonds with more people.

With so many reasons to learn a new language, the amount of interest from younger students to begin early is no surprise. If students persist in asking for expanded programs, perhaps there will be a surge of diversification in the coming years.

This story was originally published on Spartan Shield on April 25, 2019.