Bilingual Voices is a project whose goal is for encouraging Bilingual abilities through creating Volunteer Opportunities Involving Communities in Education and Social Services for Paz (Peace). This project is our first one geared distinctly for the United States in Montgomery County, Maryland.
At first glance Montgomery County, Maryland looks like one of the most ideal community in the US to live and raise children as it has one of the highest high-school graduation rates and some of the highest average incomes. This aggregate view of the county does not tell the full story, as the graduation rate of Latino students from high school was approximately 10% below the county average in 2013.
Moreover, often both schools and community are heavily demarcated by a divide in income where wealthier neighborhoods tend to have higher achieving schools. Unfortunately, for the Latino community the vast majorities of families do not live in these areas and tend to live in communities where the majority of students receive free or reduced cost lunch. This economic hardship puts a number of strains on an individual and a family structure that may lead to youth making bad decisions and joining with individuals or groups that are involved illegal actives.
Vision of Work Bilingual Voices
The goal of Bilingual Voices pilot summer camp is to begin to work against trends of poor scholastic performance through actively reaching youth between the age of 5 to 12 years old and also their parents and family members with a focus on encouraging Latino youths to embrace their language, culture, and become active peacemakers in their families and communities. Through empowering the Latino community as a bilingual community that acknowledges its story, language, and culture; the students will be able to empathize and understand other communities to be a positive influence society.
In addition to lowered success rates all to often Latino youth often are not fluent in the language of their of parents and grandparents – Spanish, leading to a disconnect with both their past and culture. We believe that this disconnects and inability to understand and embrace one’s identity leads to discontent and inability to function completely within society. We are addressing these issues through the Bilingual Voices classes in Spanish, activities designed to improve self-esteem, and opportunities to learn more about history and culture in Latin America. Additionally throughout the summer camp community members who are bilingual and successful come to visit the students to share more about their experience.
Through Bilingual Voices we believe that by the end of the accompaniment and training we will have begun to develop bilingual children that have improved self-esteem, are aware of the opportunities available and will have a commitment to understand and empathize with individuals from different backgrounds.
This past August 2014 marked the end of the first pilot program of the project which capstone included a field trip to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD where bilingual researchers shared their experiences.