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SPOTLIGHT ON SPANISH CLUB: FOREIGN LANGUAGE STUDENTS TEACH, LEARN, AND SERVE

The Aquinas College Spanish Club, now in its second official year at Aquinas, is gearing up for another successful season of community outreach and culture immersion. The group, which includes Spanish-speaking students as well as those interested in Latino culture in Grand Rapids and abroad, seeks to teach students the importance of cultural, lingual, and racial diversity. Members of the group also aid the local Latino community through a variety of volunteer opportunities. In addition, the club members’ recent induction in Alpha Mu Gamma (AMG), the national collegiate foreign language honor society, demonstrates its members’ dedication to academics as well as cultural activities.

Most importantly, the group is open to any student who is interested in Latino culture and the Spanish language, an idea stressed by Spanish Club Vice President Erin Lamers. Fluency in the language or any level of speak-ability is not required to become a member.

“I would hate for someone not to come to Spanish club just because they’re not in Spanish classes,” remarks Lamers, who encourages anyone from the student body to become a member of the group.

Spanish club is also a viable outlet for anyone interested in volunteer opportunities with those of a different language and culture. Recently, the club has begun a partnership with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, a volunteer and learning experience for those interested in working with children. In the spring, Spanish club members will also have the opportunity to teach English as a second language to adult, Spanish-speaking students. These two programs aid the community through volunteerism as well as provide helpful experiences and long-lasting memories for the college students involved.

Spanish Club also holds events simply to create a fun and social atmosphere for its members. They are “just fun events to enjoy art and music and culture,” noted Lamers, who hosted an event celebrating Dia de Los Muertos Halloween weekend with club president Sam Johnson, and club advisor and Professor Dr. Shelli Rottschafer. Though this Mexican celebration is frequently aligned with the American Halloween, the festivities for this particular holiday are actually held on November 1, and are designed to celebrate death, not to exploit or fear it.

After a social hour at the Aquinas College Moose Café that included pizza and caramel apples, the group traveled to Allyn Guerra's Red Hydrant Press Art Studio to view her work that reflected the importance of the holiday in Mexico and the United States. Guerra, a local printmaking artist, utilizes her craft to celebrate her heritage as well as bring to light social issues that transcend each culture.

During the spring 2011 semester, Lamers hopes to involve the club as well as the community by inviting a popular Mariachi Band to campus. The event would be free and open to the public and involve Aquinas in an evening with unique entertainment from Hispanic culture.

The newest element of Spanish club, its addition to Alpha Mu Gamma, solidifies the group as a vital academic source as well as an outlet for cultural diversity. AMG, admits students who excel in foreign language, sign language, or English as a second language. Spanish club members, as well as any other foreign language student can apply to the program and be considered for many scholarships that can be used toward extracurricular activities, study abroad programs, or regular tuition. This recently added aspect of the group demonstrates its focus on academics and career preparation that will lead Spanish Club members to successful careers in foreign language.

Through community outreach, culture immersion, and focus on academics, the members of the Aquinas Spanish Club have established themselves as a useful source for education and culture awareness. With each passing year, the group utilizes its resources on campus and in the surrounding community to further the students’ knowledge about the Spanish language and Latino culture. Those interested in any aspect of the group should not hesitate to join and learn more about the thriving culture that continues to provide art, entertainment, and education in the Grand Rapids community.

>>More about the Modern Languages Department at Aquinas