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Students at South Meck, Collinswood become amigos

Students in South Mecklenburg High School’s Spanish Immersion class are using their Spanish-speaking skills to show students at Collinswood Language Academy that learning the language can be fun and entertaining.

About 41 freshmen and sophomores in Nhora Gomez-Saxon’s third block Spanish Immersion class, part of the high school’s World Language magnet program, spent the month before school let out for winter break preparing and translating three different stories to perform for kindergarten through third-grade students at Collinswood. It’s the second year they’ve performed a Spanish puppet show for the students and this year they performed two, as well as acted out a third play.

“The kids really enjoyed it and it was a great experience,” sophomore Catya Caleca said about her class’s Dec. 19 performance. “Just being able to interact with the kids, to be able to be creative and just use the language to share our knowledge and enhance the language of the younger children was great.”

The South Mecklenburg students, many of which previously attended Collinswood Language Academy, split up into three groups to prepare for their performance. One group adapted a story from their textbooks called “La Guerra de los Yacares,” or “The War of the Alligators,” as Catya translated. A second group translated and adapted the widely known “Frosty the Snowman,” which they acted out for Collinswood students, and a third group wrote and translated their own story about friendship, Catya said, called “Los Amigos.”

“Writing our own was more of a challenge than actually translating because we had to come up with a whole story and make sure it was simple enough for kindergarteners, but not so simple that it was boring for the third-graders,” Catya said.

Everybody in the class had a hand in the project, whether writing the scripts, translating the plays or even designing set pieces, costumes and puppets – everyone had an equal part. Catya, who helped adapt and translate the “Frosty the Snowman” play from the movie itself, said students writing the class’s original play found it helpful to base the play off of a life lesson they wished high school students would have taught them when they were young. That’s why they focused on accepting others and making friends, Catya said, speaking on behalf of all the students in the class.

Catya and her peers had to learn the value of friendship on their own, she said, but it would have been helpful along the way to find influence in older students.

All three plays were spoken completely in Spanish, Catya said, a task that actually wasn’t too difficult since the Spanish Immersion students have been learning the language since they were in kindergarten or first grade. But they did keep in mind that some of the Collinswood students may not be as fluent in the language, so they worked to keep the phrases in their translations simple.

In addition to the plays, South Mecklenburg High School language students also have a tutoring and mentoring partnership with students at Collinswood that lasts all year.

“It creates a community, and these kids are going to be eventually become students at South Meck,” Catya said. “It definitely enhances the relationship with them. It’s just a great experience, and it’s great to keep building those relationships.”

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