SH 372 Engaging Hispanic Grand Rapids is a class unlike most other Spanish classes taught at Aquinas. The course is dedicated to learning about contemporary voices of Latin American immigrants and subsequent generations whom struggle to find a place for themselves here in the United States. A second component of the class is volunteering at César Chávez Elementary School.
Eva Bórquez, an AQ sophomore studying Spanish explains, “Although it’s a member of Grand Rapids Public Schools, it’s atypical. Unlike the rest of the schools in the district, César Chávez is a transitional bilingual school. Most of the children, like the ones I work with, come into the school speaking hardly any English at all. Most of these children were either born abroad, or are the children of immigrants.”
As such, César Chávez aims to transitionally teach them more and more English from when they begin as kindergartners until they leave the school after fifth grade. César Chávez doesn’t merely try to replace their Spanish with English, the teachers also work to make sure that the children retain and improve on what they know in Spanish. When they leave the school, the goal is that they’ll be completely fluent in both English and Spanish.
Bórquez said, “Working at César Chávez has provided an incredible opportunity for us. We are able to learn so much from these kids. Not only do they help us expand our knowledge of Spanish, but they also help break down barriers that our society has placed in regards to immigrants and those for whom Spanish isn’t their first language.”
To celebrate All Saints Day - El Día de Todos Santos” on November 2, 2012, Bórquez, the other AQ students participating in Engaging Hispanic Grand Rapids, and their professor Dr. Shelli Rottschafer, “came together and threw a party for two of the kindergarten classes. We had games, crafts, and snack for them. It was a great opportunity to meet more of the kids from César Chávez and help celebrate a holiday that’s important to us all.”
Eva Bórquez said, “as Saints, volunteering on All Saints Day, was another great opportunity that we’ve been afforded. I know that my classmates would agree that being a part of this class and having the opportunity to work at César Chávez has been fantastic. Truly, Aquinas makes all the difference in the world.”