“The face of Catholic America is changing.”
So begins the Pew Center in a 2015 report on the state of U.S. Catholic church. It’s not news that Hispanics are growing as a percentage of the U.S. population, but the percentage of U.S. Catholics who are Hispanic is growing at an even greater rate. This demographic change comes along with a significant linguistic opportunity for educators, and it’s an opportunity that Jo Jones, principal of Corpus Christi Catholic School, has embraced wholeheartedly.
The share of U.S. Catholics who are Hispanic has grown by 5 percentage points since 2007 (from 29% to 34%)…And, the share of Catholics who are Hispanic is likely to continue to grow; among Catholic millennials, as many are Hispanic (46%) as are white (43%).” – Pew Center
Principal Jones spearheaded the launch of an add.a.lingua 90-10 two way immersion program 4 years ago, and since that time has become a strong proponent of immersion education within the Catholic school community. It was a delight to interview Joanne this month to get her perspective on what the implementation of an add.a.lingua 90-10 two way immersion program has meant for her school community and the growing number of Latino Catholic families they serve.
Why did Corpus Christi decide to implement an add.alingua Spanish immersion program?
A group of very interested parents realized that our community had the linguistic diversity to be able to pull off an immersion program. We were already a diverse school, but the big change for us came when we acknowledged the gift of that diversity.
What have been some of the positive outcomes of implementing an add.a.lingua dual language immersion program for students and families?
Implementing an immersion program in partnership with add.a.lingua has been central to pulling our English and Spanish language communities together. In a 90-10 two way program, our Spanish dominant students and their home language and culture are treated as a gift, and because language is no longer a barrier, we’ve experienced the participation of parents who might otherwise be less involved.
Our Spanish immersion program has been a major part of transforming our school culture. We now have school wide dinners four times each year, and we’ve changed our hiring practices to consider the multilingual needs of our community. It’s been a beautiful thing.
What were some of the initial concerns the your community expressed when you were exploring adding an ad.a.lingua dual language immersion program, and have they been overcome?
Initially, there was concern at the leadership level that we wouldn’t have the resources or bandwidth to implement an add.a.lingua dual language program well, given all the other priorities and programs already in place. West Michigan is also home to lots of other add.a.lingua partner schools, and there was some concern that there might be too much competition for us to be successful.
What’s really gratifying is to see that the program has truly become a point of pride for many of the folks that raised these concerns in the beginning. The families involved in the program realized the benefits right away, and so there weren’t major concerns from our parents. We’ve continued to grow our enrollment, thanks in large part to the addition of our add.a.lingua immersion program.
Students who come to school with a home language other than English are very often marginalized in a typical traditional school setting. In an add.a.lingua 90-10 two way immersion setting, their language and culture become cherished. The model simply doesn’t work without them. So for me, the big win is we’ve taken a significant step to elevate marginalized students, and to prepare them for life of service and leadership in whatever sphere God calls them.
What do you believe is most critical for Catholic school leaders to know when considering an add.a.lingua dual language immersion program?
It’s important to realize that you have to invest in the immersion program, and it’s a long term investment. It’s going to be some time for your school and students to really begin to see results.
But you simply can’t call yourself a best practice school if you serve a linguistically diverse community and you haven’t even explored the add.a.lingua 90-10 two way model. This is how students learn two languages best. They learn two languages in addition to experiencing academic and social benefits.
Why do you think adding an add.a.lingua Spanish immersion option makes strategic sense for Catholic School communities?
Nearly 60% of Latinos in the U.S. are practicing Catholics. They represent over a 1/3 of all U.S. Catholics, and that number is growing. So if a Catholic school doesn’t have Latinos enrolling, it’s because there’s some barrier. What better way to remove barriers than to speak someone’s language and honor their culture? We’ve simply got to do this.
Want to learn more about add.a.lingua 90-10 two way immersion? Watch Principal Iliana Vásquez Ochoa explain the model and how it benefits both Spanish and English dominant students below, and send us a note if you’d like learn more.