Being the Change

When global becomes local

by Jan Gillis ('07)

JMU students mentor and teach local Latino youth through AMISTAD, a program established by Spanish professor Karina Kline-Gabel.

Madison's professors and their students take globalization into the community in practical, fundamental ways

"[Our] department is made up of faculty members from all over the world, 19 countries to be precise," says Giuliana Fazzion, head of JMU's Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures, "Professors bring the best of their cultures to the department and its students, and to the community at large. They also know from personal or family experiences what it means to live and work in a foreign country; thus it has been natural for them to become involved in one of JMU's central missions — globalization," she says. "Beyond teaching 14 languages and leading numerous Study Abroad and cultural programs, these professors reach out in many ways to help those in the local community; and they involve JMU students in every step."

"College buddies" solidify educational foundations

"The department's involvement with Harrisonburg's Hispanic community began years ago with the creation of the Practical Spanish course which has grown incredibly under the direction of Spanish professors Karina Kline-Gabel and Elizabeth Castro," says Fazzion. "Kline-Gabel has a long history of community involvement, and her students work with the local Skyline Literacy group to help adult students learn English as a second language. Her students have also attended classes at a local elementary school where 30 percent of the student population is Hispanic. JMU students work with children from pre-school through fourth grade to help those experiencing language difficulties and to help reinforce skills that teachers have presented. Every year, the children look forward to meeting their new 'college buddies.'"

Making dual heritage a bonus

Kline-Gabel also founded AMISTAD (friendship), a program in which JMU students attend a local middle school to spend time with Latino youths. Fazzion explains, "During weekly sessions, JMU students visit sixth- and seventh-graders to play games and talk about the importance of retaining their native cultural identity while becoming good American citizens."

More cross-cultural work is done by Elizabeth Castro, who offers "Conversation Tables" semi-weekly after the Career Development Academy's ESL classes. "She also places students in local elementary, middle and high schools to help Latino children become more proficient in English," says Fazzion. "Castro also created Shadow Day, so Latino students can visit JMU and follow students and professors. This helps motivate students to study their native language formally at the university level."

Multi-generational approach

"Castro places her Practical Spanish students with the Gus Bus, a community/university partnership. Students read books in Spanish to children who climb aboard the literacy bus. Castro also places JMU students with other community programs like the Career Development Academy and New Bridges, which helps local Latinos understand utility bills or fill out documentation paperwork," says Fazzion.

The efforts of Madison's professors and their students take globalization into the community in practical, fundamental ways. The result is building a positive foundation for the future.

Read more in the Fall 2010 Madison magazine article "Fluent in the language of service," by Giuliana Fazzion.

Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Last Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2019

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