domingo, 15 de febrero de 2009

Un poco de historia / A bit of history

For those of you wanting to know more about El Círculo Juvenil de cultura, here's a brief history prepared by Kenya:

THE CÍRCULO Spanish Outreach Program
Carnegie Mellon University

Fostering Community for Local Hispanic Children & Families through the Arts

Carnegie Mellon University’s Círculo Juvenil de Cultura program (THE CÍRCULO) is a Hispanic Heritage Language and Culture Program for Spanish-speaking immigrant children in the greater Pittsburgh area. It was created in September 2007, and is directed by three Hispanic Studies faculty members in the Department of Modern Languages—Professors Mariana Achugar, Kenya Dworkin, and Felipe Gómez (Dr. Shawn Alfonso Wells and Dr. Karen Faulk are also on the Organizing Committee).

According to the 2000 Census, “[the] Hispanic population in Allegheny County was 11,166…[and estimates] for 2006 show the Hispanic population having grown to 12,234” (Pittsburgh Tribune Review, July 8, 2007). They come from different countries and have emigrated for different reasons (e.g., employment, schooling). An interesting characteristic of this immigration is that it includes highly educated and working-class individuals and families. In Pittsburgh: “[the] number of [English as a Second Language] students jumped to 485 this school year and is projected to reach 1,085 by 2010-11. The district's…Spanish-speakers are now the largest group of ESL students. Pittsburgh Beechwood PreK-5…has 47 Hispanic students, accounting for more than 11 percent of the school's enrollment” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 12, 2008).

These changes in our local population have created a need for services geared towards its particular needs, which are serviced by a series of organizations and individuals, e.g.: Pittsburgh’s Hispanic Center, The Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese’s St. Regis, Sister Janice Vanderneck, Catholic Charities, Dr. Diego Chaves-Gnecco, The Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, and local banks like PNC. Yet, none of these many initiatives is aimed at helping immigrant children maintain their language and culture while they quickly become English-speaking Americans.

Research and experience have shown that once bilingual children in the U.S. begin school they start to switch to English and become immersed in the dominant English-language culture, to the detriment of the heritage language skills. In 2000, then U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley forcefully advocated the importance of U.S. citizens being proficient in more than one language: “In an international economy, knowledge—and knowledge of language—is power. Knowing a second language is more valuable than ever. I believe that citizens who speak English and another language will be a great resource for our nation in the coming years” (U.S. Society & Values June 2000). After 9-11, another government report urged the U.S. to “take advantage of all existing human capital flexibilities to recruit and retain personnel with foreign language skills” (“Decision Eliminating Spanish and Other Language Training for ICE Investigators Was a Mistake,” June 28, 2005). Yet, according to a 2005 poll, only 9% of native-born, U.S. citizens know two languages, as compared to 50% of Europeans (Associated Press, September 23, 2005). It is clear that our society and its workforce would greatly benefit from the cultivation of not only more second-language education for native English speakers but also heritage language maintenance programs for bilingual immigrant children—who are also our future citizens. Heritage language maintenance and development is the THE CÍRCULO’s primary goal.

THE CÍRCULO is currently the only local local program that supports heritage language and cultural literacy for the children of Hispanic immigrants in Pittsburgh. It offers them an opportunity to develop their linguistic and cultural literacy in Spanish while meeting and establishing relationships with other children from other Hispanic backgrounds who are bilingual and live here in Pittsburgh (this also provides an opportunity for networking among their parents, since they, too, are included in many of the activities). THE CÍRCULO promotes heritage language and culture maintenance and development by creating an environment in which bilingual children can explore both their identities and cultures, and the relationship between the arts and society, through music, poetry, stories, songs, theatre, art, and dances—all in Spanish. Through interaction with native-speaking professional teacher-facilitators and Spanish-speaking college students, they are encouraged to develop and be proud of their heritage language and cultures, and appreciate the social and cultural value of being bilingual-bicultural citizens of their new country, the United States. THE CÍRCULO’s curriculum is project based and addresses multi-level and multi-age needs, integrates language and culture, and taps into human resources available in our campus and greater community. Other CÍRCULO goals include: creating a service learning opportunity for Spanish heritage- and native-language undergraduate and graduate students at CMU, and for local Spanish-speaking teachers and artists; establishing a community network of parents, students, educators, and other community members and service providers, businesses and educational institutions; and, potentially creating a laboratory for research on heritage language and culture development in the United States (there is a dearth of good heritage language and culture educational materials and professional).

We believe that one of the ways THE CÍRCULO encourages a positive attitude towards heritage speaker bilingualism is that in their weekly, two-hour sessions, the children work not only with professional Spanish-speaking teachers but also with native- or heritage-speaker undergraduate and graduate students, all of them serving as positive role models as academically successful bilingual-bicultural young people who have maintained their dual language proficiency. Another way the children see the value of their bilingualism-biculturalism rests in the fact that their activity takes place in a university setting, and because many community people attend their multiple programs (particularly in the case of their play presentation at the Oakland Carnegie Library, a space the children have come to see as one that is highly valued by the community at large).

Thus far, THE CÍRCULO has conducted five ten-week arts workshops for two hours every Saturday. We have had a total of around 50 participants representing more than 10 countries (some of them come from homes where one parent is a native U.S. citizen). The first workshop culminated in the children performing an original, Spanish-language play, “La gran aventura del viaje por América” [The Grand and Adventurous Journey through America]. The final product of the second workshop was a Spanish-language poetry, dance, choral and wordplay performance that included original poems written by the children. The third workshop, “Mi primera experiencia en video+” [My First Video+ Experience], produced a children’s photo exhibit and film screening containing original photographs and video clips produced by the participants.

The current workshop (Sundays, 2-4pm) is centered around short animated films. We are proud and excited to see a number of kids eager to watch the films, make their own, and get immersed in Hispanic language and culture along the way. We hope more of you decide to join us!

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