Combining Service and Learning through Spanish

Combining+Service+and+Learning+through+Spanish

On April 26, April 28 and May 2 during class time, Upper School Spanish teacher Mariana Mariel took her Latin American Perspectives class, entirely composed of seniors, to visit the senior center at Wesley Rankin Community Center located in West Dallas.

The class is designed to discuss the history of Spanish-speaking countries and is divided into several units for each quarter—geopolitics, dance, culture and for the fourth quarter: immigration.

In order for students to understand these people and their needs, Mariel thought it best for her students to meet the senior citizens at Wesley Rankin, a center that is home to many immigrants of Spanish-speaking countries, mainly Mexico. The senior center there is a place for the senior members of the community to get a meal and talk to others.

In addition, Mariel wanted to give her students the ability to practice their Spanish in a real-life setting.

“In order to understand the community, the culture, the people and their needs it is essential to experience and immerse ourselves in their environment,” Mariel said.

On their first day, students brought pipe cleaners, colored tissue papers and talked to senior citizens there who taught them how to make flowers. While constructing these flowers, students conversed with the seniors, asking them where they were from and why they joined Wesley Rankin.

Latin American Perspectives student and senior Brittany Tovar, whose family emigrated from Mexico and moved to West Dallas, thought this was an important experience for Hockaday students. While Tovar did not live in West Dallas, she spent a lot of time with her father’s side of the family that lived there.

“It was nice to see people interacting, especially from Hockaday with someone from a place that’s so close to my heart and means a lot to me,” Tovar said.

On their third and last day, students played bingo with them and brought ingredients for fajitas, prepared them and served all the seniors lunch. However, Tovar saw the experience as not simply community service but rather a chance for students to focus on lives of the senior citizens.

“It wasn’t about helping them, it was about talking to them and understanding their stories,” Tovar said.

The seniors talked to the students about many things, but the one thing that Tovar especially remembers is their message about the importance of staying in school.

“Their general message was to work hard, stay in school, and they emphasized that we were privileged to be at this school,” Tovar said.

Senior Kendra Mysore, another Latin American Perspectives student, said her favorite part of the trip was serving the seniors lunch.

“It was a really humbling experience that they took time out of their routine to talk to us,” Mysore said.

After going to Wesley Rankin for three class days, the students had discussions in class, during which they and Mariel realized that they needed more days “to really build this relationship, and for the students and the seniors at Wesley Rankin to get comfortable with each other.”

With such positive feedback from the students and senior citizens, Mariel plans to work on expanding the program by adding more days and embarking on a project to help the center grow.

Mariel highlights the effect of building such a stronger relationship between Hockaday’s Latin American Perspectives class and Wesley Rankin’s seniors.

“We will all be in shock about how much you can learn about each other by sharing a meal with them,” Mariel said. “The members of the community are no longer ‘latinos’ or ‘immigrants,’ but we can know them by their names; Lorenza, Luz, Esteban, Juanita and María.”