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OCT. 7, 2013

El Centro and OA

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In addition to being the Spanish teacher at The Outdoor Academy, I am the Director of El Centro Comunitario Hispano Americano in Brevard. El Centro was established 12 years ago, and its mission is to enhance the wellness and the integration of the Hispanic community in Transylvania County by:

  • Encouraging education within the Hispanic Community.
  • Encouraging multicultural understanding.
  • Fighting for justice.
  • Developing Hispanic leadership.
  • Encouraging Civic participation.

I have had the opportunity to build connections between both organizations. Students and staff from The Outdoor Academy have helped El Centro in different ways. In recent years, the participation of the students and staff have helped El Centro in activities like the International Food and Film Fest, where the students greeted participants and served food. It was amazing to see the students using theirs skills to talk with participants and delight people with their conversations. Anglos and Latinos enjoyed conversation and delicious food from different parts of the world donated by restaurants and individuals. Students and staff have also helped by tutoring kids whose parents have limited English skills to improve reading, writing, and math skills. And OA students get to know a different culture and practice their Spanish skills. Semester 37 is no exception and has been involved in El Centro this semester by preparing the space for the Homework Club program. They painted walls and cleaned the installations. Everybody was impressed about how much work a small group of students accomplished during the time that they were at El Centro. Becca, one of our residents who volunteers at El Centro during her time off on Wednesdays wrote the following about her experience tutoring Cálida, a second grader from Pisgah Forest Elementary school who attends the after school program:

“’You’re here!’ the little girl clinging to my waist cries. Her dark eyes sparkle with all of the energy and enthusiasm of a second grader. I pick her up and twirl her around.

‘It’s so nice to see you again. How was your week?’ I ask. We pick out some books to read (Cinderella and The Princesses of the Diamond Palace are favorites) and head into the sitting room. Although she is antsy and gets frustrated with her slow reading, we have a fun time.

‘You are doing great,’ I continually encourage her.  She sighs and gets up to go get herself more apple slices—a perfect excuse for a break.

This hour and a half that I spend at El Centro every Wednesday is a precious time for me. I am not only helping this second grader who speaks English as a second language, but I am also able to connect with a unique part of the Brevard community. When the mothers and aunts come to pick up the children, I am able to practice my Spanish, hold babies and listen to Banda music. I hear the familiar Spanish colloquialisms and popular songs from Mexico. It is a great reminder of the diversity that surrounds me at all times and the power of community connection.”

I am glad that Becca is having great time tutoring and for the continuing connections between El Centro and The Outdoor Academy.

Rodrigo Vargas
Spanish Teacher