Erin Blasko | December 24, 2018
Every Thursday, Julia Cogan, a junior at the University of Notre Dame, drives the six minutes from campus to Holy Cross School, a Catholic school on South Bend’s near northwest side — a socially and economically diverse area of the city where an increasing number of young people speak one language at home and another at school, straddling a wide and often disorienting lingual and cultural divide.
There, Cogan, a sociology major with a minor in teaching English to speakers of other languages, leads a heritage book club for middle-school students in Clare Roach’s introductory Spanish class. The students speak Spanish at home — easily conversing with Spanish-speaking padres (mothers and fathers), tios (aunts and uncles) and abuelos (grandmas and grandpas) — but struggle to read and write in Spanish because it is not the traditional language of education in South Bend.
Roach, coordinator of the two-way immersion program at Holy Cross as well as the English as a New Language Program at the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at Notre Dame, calls these sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students her “too-smart people.”
“These kids speak Spanish better than I do; they don’t need to be in an introductory Spanish class where they’re learning colors and numbers and basic greetings,” Roach said. “They’re too linguistically skilled for that.”
The latest in a long line of Notre-Dame backed programs and initiatives aimed at improving educational outcomes for primary and secondary students in the South Bend-Elkhart region, the book club, now in its second year, provides Holy Cross students of Hispanic heritage an opportunity to become scholars in their native language within a collaborative learning environment that promotes discussion and problem solving.
Read more here.