Chicago friends, great news!! This past weekend was the beginning of a new program and the first day of the Spring session for the Latino Cultural Academy! Imagine a place where your little ones can go on Saturdays and be completely immersed in Spanish with other children, while being led by very knowledgeable teachers to collaborate and learn about Latino heritage!
The Latino Cultural Academy was founded by four multicultural Latino families aware of the challenges their second-generation Latino children were facing in connecting with their heritage. These parents made their children’s cultural education a priority and helped create an environment where many children can benefit from learning in a traditional classroom setting (at UIC!), while allowing them to contribute to the curriculum along with supportive participation from parents.
On this blog we have discussed the concern many of us have regarding our children losing their identity and Spanish language-but we continue to work hard on this issue. When I heard that a college friend of Jose’s was one of the founders of LCA, I said, I have to ask him some questions. Here is an exchange Jose Luz Frausto and I had recently:
Is The Latino Cultural Academy a Spanish immersion school, a language school or something completely different?
It’s a bit difficult to put the LCA program into any one of these categories. What I can tell you is that we are focused on helping your child discover what it means to be Latino in a way that is relevant to who they are. Will your child be immersed in the Spanish language? Absolutely! The program is taught entirely, 100% in Spanish. The focus is not just learning Spanish; it’s is learning IN Spanish.
At the moment, the focus is learning Spanish, however our vision is to eventually begin to branch out into other Latino languages, for example, Portugues.
What do all the founders/parents feel is lacking in their children’s general education? Why do they feel it is necessary to create and for their children to attend this type of program?
We have this story on our website, which sums up how this idea came about… A group of parents began talking about the challenges we faced connecting our children with their heritage. Many of us were first generation US-born Latinos and when we were children, Spanish was the primary language spoken at home. We grew up in primarily “Latino” communities, interacting with children just like us. We took road trips to our native countries for several weeks in the summers, where we stayed with our relatives and had the opportunity to be immersed in our family’s native language and culture. This wasn’t special or unique to us, this was our reality. Many of us still speak Spanish and continue to celebrate our traditions with our extended families, but when it comes to our children, we can’t say the same.
We each tried to solve the problem in our own way. For most, we started simply, by speaking Spanish in our homes. However, our children’s interactions are primarily in English. Whether it’s in school, extracurricular activities, with friends, or even with their siblings, they spoke English. Some of us went so far as to enroll our children in Spanish language programs. The question became, was it enough?
As we shared our stories with one another, we discovered that we also wanted them to develop a strong sense of pride in the Latino culture, have knowledge of where they came from, and understand their culture as well as other Latino cultures. We recognized a need for a cultural academy that had programming specifically for the heritage speakers, with content that encompassed all Latino cultures and languages. We didn’t just want our children to learn Spanish, we wanted them to learn in Spanish. We wanted to connect with other families that have the same desires for their children, and we wanted our children to have friends that were experiencing this with them.
It was these dreams for our children that the Latino Culture Academy was created. It is our goal as parents to nurture our children and give them a strong sense of pride in who they are and who they can become. We want to give them the tools they need to succeed in life, and that comes from nurturing a strong sense of self in their own personal Latino identity.
I see the classes are offered only on the weekend. What is the ideal age group? Will the students be mixed by age or language ability?
Currently, we are starting out by running a Saturday program. The kids ages range from 4-10yrs of age. We are able to do a little bit of both. At times we are able to break them out by age and at other times we break them out by ablility. However, throughout the class the group is brought together for activities, then broken back out to reinforce what the group has learned.
Classes started! Is there open enrollment?
Class sign-ups are now closed. In the event the class was not filled, we would offer open enrollment.
What are some of the goals for LCA? More teachers in the future? Summer programs?
We want to build a quality program that can reach as many children as possible. In our effort to do so, we plan on doing some additional programming and are currently exploring options to host a summer program.
Chicago friends, I urge you to visit LCA’s website and contact them directly with any questions. I am super impressed with the determination and action the parents and founders of LCA have demonstrated to give the gift of language and cultural studies to their kids at such a young age. Most admirable, they care about all of our Latino children and their future as world citizens. Follow their Latino Parents Network on Facebook for updates!
What do you think? Is this something your family has thought about? More to come on our personal bilingual/identity journey!