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Spanish class partners with Hampton Latino students

One of Wartburg’s Spanish courses, Latinos in the United States, is working with Latino students from Hampton’s high school to prepare a special project.

This new partnership was added to the course taught by Zak Montgomery, the associate professor of Spanish, to enhance the cultural learning aspect of the class. It involves nearly 50 students between the two groups.

Dr. Montgomery

Over the course of the semester, the 22 Hampton and 26 Wartburg students will work electronically in pairs, via email and skype, due to the distance of nearly 40 miles between the two communities. Their project includes researching, creating and performing a skit about historical Latino figures, and their impact on society in the U.S, at both Wartburg and Hampton’s high school later this year.

“Whenever I can put a human interaction twist on teaching culture and history, I do so thinking it’s going to be more powerful and more memorable,” Montgomery said. “The idea is that we are giving a voice to figures who have not been recognized in our history.”

The Latino students are part of an after-school program called Al Éxito, which means “to success.” This organization is based in Des Moines and is active in six other nearby communities such as Hampton, Ottumwa and Marshalltown.

Al Éxito’s goal is to encourage Latino youth to pursue academic success, stay in school, and hopefully attend college. Their efforts to do so include providing a curriculum of support and daily activities to prepare the students for moving on.

The Latino students visited Wartburg on Oct. 4 to meet their partners, begin preparing the project, and tour campus. Both groups also attended the Midwest premier of “The U Turn,” a documentary about the 2008 Postville immigrant raid, and even meet the filmmaker, Luis Argueta.

Alicia Urbain, a student taking the course, is excited to be part of creating the relationship between Wartburg and Al Éxito and working alongside her partner Kimberly Guillen to learn more about Latino history. Like most of the students involved with Al Éxito, Guillen’s parents are immigrants and her family has only been in this country for three years.

“This project will help educate the Waverly and Hampton communities of Latino figures that have been left out of history books,” Urbain said.  “Throughout this unique experience, I hope to encourage my partner to enjoy learning and understand that she has a place here in the United States.”

This project and partnership has been in the works since March, when Montgomery came across a link for the group’s page on Google. Montgomery said he was intrigued by Al Éxito’s similar goals and wrote a letter to the director of the Hampton group.

Over the summer, Montgomery said they met several times to discuss the potential outcomes of the partnership and officially solidified the plan just before classes started with high hopes for the ultimate outcome.

“I found that Al Éxito was in line with the things I wanted to do in my own classroom,” Montgomery said. “I hope that the high school students will bring a cultural point of view, and that my students will gain a more nuanced understanding of what the Latino experience is like in this country.”

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