SIFE students bridging language gap

Release Date: 10/3/2012

Fernanda Montero, originally from Costa Rica, along with other members of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), is exposing Clarksville's youngest citizens to a second language in a fun and memorable way.

Montero, a junior marketing and strategic communications major, is a native Spanish speaker and project manager for SIFE. Together with other volunteers, Montero teaches short Spanish lessons to local kindergarten and first grade classes, a project dubbed ABC Spanish.

"The mission of SIFE is to impact people positively. It's our goal to use our education to empower those around us," Montero explained. "I hope that by teaching students basic Spanish early on, they will more excited about learning the language as they get older. It is becoming more and more important to know how to speak Spanish. There are a lot of Spanish-only speakers just in this area."

The project began in the spring of 2012, but on a much smaller scale.

"In the beginning, it was just me and two other students. We only had one class of kindergarten kids.  This year, we wanted to make the project bigger. We are going to stay with the same students, who are first-graders now, and we'll have a new class of kindergartners to work with," Montero said.

"That means we'll be teaching just over 60 students total," she added. "We'll be in the classrooms for a half hour, four days a week. I'm nervous and excited. Because we have twice as many students this year, we need to have more help."

Because of the magnitude of her project, Montero and the SIFE team has opened up ABC Spanish campus-wide for volunteers.

"This year, we want to partner up with Ozarks education students to help us make the lessons more effective," she said. "I have worked with kids before volunteering in preschools and on mission trips, but we know that having educational experience would be great. I also want to partner with the Spanish club."

According to Montero, the elementary students participating in the ABC Spanish program have a great time learning a new language.

"The kids love it. They respond really well to all our lessons," she said. "We try to make the lessons fun. For example, one day we taught the students common food words. Then, we set up a play restaurant where the kids had to order their food in Spanish."

Montero hopes that the project will continue long after its original founders have left Ozarks.

"We want this to be a project that grows," she said. "The ultimate goal is to stay with these students as long as possible. Next year, we'll be working with original group, who will be second-graders, first-graders, and a new section of kindergartners, and so on every year."