Glendale/Mountain View Community Learning Center broadens early childhood educational opportunities

Story and photos by ELLIE COOK

Within the streets of the western neighborhoods of Salt Lake City, Navajo Street stands out because it is not your typical neighborhood block. Sitting in between Mountain View Elementary and Glendale Middle School lies the Community Learning Center. A place with a plethora of services for the locals, it also houses the Salt Lake City School District Early Childhood Program (ECP). For decades, the ECP headquarters has sat within the main district building in downtown Salt Lake City. However, moving the office has allowed easier access for families, and assisted in a significant expansion of classrooms and various educational opportunities.

The community center offers various education options for children and their families. More hands-on curriculum has been introduced, which allows the parents and children to learn together.

The program is recognized by Utah State Office of Education as a High-Quality Program. Though the district provides early childhood programs across the Salt Lake Valley, it centers its attention toward Title-1 schools. As time went on, the program became more needed, but that caused overcrowding. Families were being turned away because all classrooms were at the maximum of 18 kids. This left financially strapped parents with few other options. “Families require some type of care/schooling for their child. Preschool programs are much more productive than throwing their child in a daycare,” said Ann Cook, former director of the ECP. So, what could be done to provide for more families?

After much contemplation and planning, in 2012 the  board of education decided to construct a 30,000-square-foot facility to serve the west-side community and house the headquarters for the early childhood program.

Cook and her colleagues helped oversee the construction to assure the center provided a beneficial layout for their classroom and office needs. This included more/larger classrooms, garden beds, larger playgrounds, and appliances such as sinks, toilets and water stations that accommodated 3-4-year-olds. Lastly, it allowed the ECP to create a spacious office area to serve the community. “Moving our office from the main district building allowed us to assist our patrons much easier by making it more accessible for families who live on the west side,” Cook said.

By 2013, the dream center had become a reality. Since then, the ECP has been able to assist many more families and host various programs. The center has occupied multiple pre-kindergarten (half-day and full-day) classrooms, four kindergartens, and a Head Start room for infants.

The center sits between Mountain View Elementary and Glendale Middle School. There are various services offered within the center, including a public kitchen, a food pantry and dental office.

With the sudden growth of classrooms needing occupants, the expansion opened the doors for employment as teachers and paraprofessionals were in short supply. “We are a pretty amazing program with wonderful teaching staff. Our teachers are dedicated to supporting the students within our district,” said Teacher Specialist Robyn Johnson. Usually, classes have one teacher and one paraprofessional. Many of them are bilingual, mainly in Spanish and English. The ECP recognizes that it serves a large Hispanic community and therefore needs to ensure everything is communicated correctly, and respectfully. This applies to the classrooms and the main office. Communicating in more than one language is essential in a classroom setting, especially if English is not the child’s first language.

With such success with this center, this leaves room for potential expansions for the ECP. “We would love to provide more opportunities for pre-k. Families have asked for more full-day opportunities and we have been able to add a few more sites to meet their requests. Ideally, we would love funding for universal pre-k to support all families,” Johnson said. Currently, due to financial constraints, families are forced to pay on a sliding scale.

Three community learning centers are now operated at Mountain View/Glendale, Liberty Elementary (formally known as Lincoln Elementary), and Rose Park Elementary. However, the facilities are not as expansive as the one at Glendale/Mountain View. The district has already begun planning for the construction of even more community learning centers. These expansions would hopefully be able to grant more space for the ECP. Until then, Salt Lake City School District early childhood programs remain at other schools in the Salt Lake area. If interested, families may still register per usual.

How to Enroll?

Registration for the 2020-21 school year begins Feb. 26, 2020. Visit the website or call 801-974-8396.


Chinese-language classes in Utah schools gaining popularity

Story and multimedia by Karen Holt Bennion

Watch Chinese teacher Jim Groethe work with students at Bingham High School

Listen to Shelley Huang talk about Bingham High School’s Chinese Club


It’s Monday morning and James Groethe is gathering up his teaching materials for the week. He’ll arrive at Bingham High School by 7 o’clock. However, at the end of the day he will be packing up his things in another classroom from another school.

Groethe teaches Chinese at four different high schools in the Jordan School District. “I like the exposure to various schools, students, and such, but it is exhausting,” He says. He currently must drive to Bingham High, Riverton High, Copper Hills and West Jordan High School each week.

Groethe racks up plenty of mileage on his 2002 Acura traveling from one school to another each week — approximately 110 miles for which he does not get reimbursed. He enjoys teaching Chinese and is surprised more students aren’t taking advantage of learning the language.

He learned Chinese while on a mission in Taiwan for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When he returned he studied Chinese and worked in Salt Lake City on the Chinese Client Services team for a major financial firm. After eight years with the company, Groethe decided to pursue his longtime dream of becoming an educator. Currently, he is teaching history (in addition to Chinese) at Bingham High School to fulfill a student-teaching internship through Weber State University.

Although he enjoys teaching history, he is grateful for the opportunity to be able to teach a new language to high school students and is surprised at how quickly the students are catching on.

“Learning any foreign language is beneficial to students, but I believe that Chinese is one of the best decisions a student can make. Over a lifetime, Chinese will open doorways and opportunities for these students that are incomparable to other languages,” Goethe says.

Bingham High senior Nikki Mackert agrees. She is taking Chinese II and says learning the language will help her in the future job market.

“I would love to visit China. Right now, with China almost passing up the U.S. in the market, just about any job you want, you’ll be more likely to get if you speak Chinese or have been there,” Mackert says.

She thinks learning Chinese hasn’t been as difficult as most people think. To her, it’s the same as learning to speak and spell English. Although she is happy with Groethe’s teaching technique and likes him as a teacher, she admits having a full-time teacher at her school would be more beneficial for the students. She’d appreciate being able to go to Groethe during the school day to get help instead of having to e-mail him. She also says Chinese classes and clubs are still in the growing phase and trying to make a name for themselves at Bingham.

“It seems like the Chinese classes and clubs are almost invisible in the schools, or have always had problems. I would love to see it much more emphasized,” Mackert says.

Gregg Roberts is the World Language Specialist in the Utah State Office of Education. He and others in his office are confident that Chinese will soon be as common a language to learn in our schools as more traditional languages.

“In fact, statewide we are almost there, for the 2010-11 school year, Chinese is the 3rd most taught foreign language in Utah school behind only Spanish 1st and French 2nd,” Roberts said in an e-mail message. “Hopefully, Jordan School District will be hiring several full time Chinese teachers in the near future.”

Right now, schools in the district receive state funds through the Critical Language Program and the Dual Immersion Program. Money for these programs was available in 2008, when the state legislature passed Senate Bill 41—International Initiatives. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper.

Roberts was hired by the Utah State Office of Education in 2006. His job was to lead the newly formed World Language Program. In a 2009 interview for the Mandarin Institute, Roberts noted how important it was for Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to bring Chinese into Utah’s schools.

“During my initial meeting with Gov. Huntsman, he looked me straight in eye and said, ‘One of the very first charges I am giving you is to get Chinese language programs into our secondary and elementary schools as soon as possible,'” Roberts said in the interview.

Since then, Roberts has been working steadily towards Huntsman’s goal. The former governor, who speaks Mandarin Chinese fluently, is now the U.S. Ambassador to China. Roberts attributes the entire Chinese language program in Utah to Huntsman and Stephenson. “Without their support, Utah would not be one of the recognized leaders in Chinese language education,” he said.

Top companies around the country also are glad to see Chinese introduced to schools. Employers often respond positively to applicants who are fluent in a second language, especially Chinese. Chad Cowan is the director of Lean Business Development for Nike Inc., which has its headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. Cowan has been on countless business trips to China and other regions of Asia such as Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore. His job includes process improvement and systems alignment work. On his trips to Asia, Cowan constantly meets with business leaders who are citizens of the particular country and at times, must rely on a translator to help with meetings.

“In my experience, the ability to speak Chinese, or any other Asian language for that matter, is most beneficial when working with external business partners such as sub-contracted manufactures.” Cowan said in an e-mail interview. He is currently in the process of hiring an employee who can travel to Asia and speak Chinese. He believes that knowing Chinese is an invaluable asset on a résumé.

“In any case, it certainly couldn’t hurt and may very well be the one variable that positively distinguishes one candidate from another,” Cowan said in an e-mail message. “This boils down to a given company’s business model. For NIKE, we’ve got a lot invested in China and it’s a significant component of our source base. Having a Chinese language skills resident inside our organization is key, which we tend to leverage through bi-lingual Chinese employees,” Cowan said.

Meanwhile high school student Nikki Mackert will keep studying Chinese and will dream of the day she travels to China, for a vacation or for a business trip. Groethe will keep teaching Chinese because it’s what he loves to do. Even his mother has caught her son’s enthusiasm for the language. She is a native of Japan and still speaks broken English, Groethe says. However, she is currently taking Chinese II at a junior college near her home in California.

Groethe will continue driving to all four schools for the remainder of the 2010-2011 school year. However, he hopes to land a full-time position teaching Chinese at just one high school next year. “I plan on teaching Chinese and history until I am dead. I love it,” he says.

The Native American ESL student


Teachers and PTA members at West Jordan Elementary School in West Jordan, Utah, have combined their efforts to create the “I Can Read” program, a program designed for students who need help with reading and writing skills.

Cody Black is one student who has received the one-on-one help he needs to enhance his reading and writing skills. Stacy Murdock, Cody’s 4th-grade teacher, noticed he was struggling with his reading and writing assignments. He had a harder time in some areas because his parents, who are Native American, do not speak English well enough to help him at home.

Murdock entered Cody in the “I Can Read” program to help him improve his literacy skills. “I know that if he were to just get some help with his reading and writing, it will help him a lot in other subjects,” Murdock said before enrolling Cody in the program.

After his sessions in the “I Can Read” program, Cody often mentioned how helpful it was for him to be able to read with someone, something he couldn’t do at home with his parents.

Professors Nancy S. Lay and Gladys Carro explained in their article, “The English-as-a-Second-Language Student,” how students who struggle in reading and writing can struggle in other areas as well. “Many of the textbooks are written on a reading level far higher than that attained by many ESL students,” they wrote. “Thus, reading becomes slower and checking the dictionary for every word they do not know takes time and interrupts the comprehensibility of the texts.” For this reason it is important for schools to provide additional help for students who are behind in reading and writing.

Native American students going to school where their culture is not the dominant one can also have trouble adjusting to the culture of other students, making it harder to learn or feel comfortable.

Culturally, Native American children learn differently than white children, said Forrest S. Cuch, executive director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs.

“Most Native American children learn to concentrate on the spiritual aspects of life. Most white children are taught to concentrate on the physical aspects,” Cuch said. In addition, he said, “Native Americans are taught to be cooperative, whereas whites are taught to be competitive.”

Similar to the way cultures are different from one country to another, Native American cultures are different from other cultures within the United States. Lay and Carro suggest that if an ESL student does not participate in some activities in class, it may be because of a cultural difference that is making the student uncomfortable.

“American Indians are different in so many ways, and we process information differently,” Cuch said. “And the school system is designed for the dominant culture. And consequently, our kids have always fallen behind.” To help Native American students feel more comfortable, Cuch suggests that schools implement a system of smaller classrooms, hire more Native American teachers and incorporate Native American history into the curriculum.

Cuch did agree that when there are a very small number of Native American students in a school it is often best to give that student more one-on-one help with specific needs. Most Utah elementary schools have some form of reading and writing program like “I Can Read” to help struggling students in a more personal way.

Although Cody was helped by the “I Can Read” program, those who helped him were only volunteers and not professional teachers. Cody is now in the resource program at West Jordan Elementary and is getting better one-on-one help from professional teachers who have been trained to help students with special needs.

According to the November 2004 United States Census Bureau, only 75 percent of Native Americans and Alaska Natives age 25 and older had at least a high school diploma. This is the lowest rate among all races and ethnicities in the U.S. If more is done to help Native American students at an early age, it is more likely they will further their education and learning.

A diverse education in Salt Lake City


Patricia Quijano Dark wants her daughters to appreciate diversity. But she didn’t find that in the public schools near their home in Sandy, Utah, so she and four other women helped create the Dual Immersion Academy, which opened in September 2007.

“At the Dual Immersion Academy we are achieving more diversity, multiple colors and multiple languages,” she said.

The first fully bilingual school in Utah, DIA teaches all subjects in both Spanish and English to children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

The children quickly develop the ability to read, write and speak in both languages, Dark said. This ability allows students to better communicate with each other, breaking down barriers and increasing the diversity of stories, ideas and experiences.

Armando Solorzano, a researcher and associate professor in the department of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah, agrees with Dark.

“The DIA is very positive,” Solorzano said. “It integrates children at a very early age so children grow up with an understanding of each other’s differences. It breaks the cycle of racism and discrimination.”

DIA helps break down cultural barriers but has other benefits, too. Dark said that students who attend a bilingual school such as the Dual Immersion Academy are 70 percent more likely to attend college than those who do not.

However, in the state of Utah, rising tuition costs are affecting one’s chances of attending college.

In 2002 the Utah Legislature passed House Bill 144, which allowed undocumented students to receive in-state tuition at public universities if they met certain requirements. Now with House Bill 241, the benefit of in-state tuition costs may be repealed.

The bill counteracts much of Dark’s efforts by raising the costs of a college education. At the DIA more than half of the 350 students live below federal poverty standards.

Solorzano said the educational system does not provide the same opportunities to everybody. In fact, halting the potential of Latino students harms not only them, but also the community as a whole.

“Why are we not letting these students come?” he said. “It is limiting opportunities and affecting the economy of Utah. These individuals will not be able to compete in a global society.”

Dark said the buying power of Utah’s Latinos today exceeds $5 billion and by the year 2010 it is expected to exceed $6.5 billion. She said that purchasing power could be diminished substantially if people are unable to attend college and obtain jobs that pay well.

These figures mesh with data released in an article by Mark Alvarez, administrator of minority affairs with the U’s Center for Public Policy and Administration, in an article titled, “Latino Participation.” He expects Latino purchasing power to reach $6.2 billion by 2010.

While there exists a connection between education and business in Utah, the same connection exists in Dark’s own life.

Her goal of educating children dovetails with her efforts to do the same for adults through the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Dark, 41, accepted the position as executive director of the chamber after a career as a reporter in England and Argentina. One of her goals is to provide a resource for immigrants who are unfamiliar with life in Utah.

She recently instituted new workshops that anyone can attend. The program allows people to meet, share experiences, develop new business contacts and enjoy food and refreshments together.

Dark pointed out that many immigrants from other countries are highly educated but still have trouble integrating into a new culture due to unfamiliarity with businesses here and the education system.

Carlos Paz, 27, a U student identifies with this.

Paz holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Buenos Aires, an associate degree in health science from Brigham Young University, and he will soon graduate from the U with a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology and a minor in psychology. He plans to attend medical school after graduation.

Despite his academic success, Paz still encountered some of the challenges that Dark spoke of.

“When I first came to the United States I had to explain the way I was thinking,” Paz said. “For example, when I did math the solution was right but the work I did was different. I would get marked off and have to explain my thinking.”

Paz traveled to the United States for a brief stint in high school before going to college. He said that people expected a lower quality of work from him. They made fun of the way he spoke, and his treatment by classmates was upsetting.

Dark pointed out how preconceived notions about people can lead to incorrect judgments.

“There is a misconception that all Hispanics are the same, and we encounter that in the press,” she said. “Don’t ever underestimate who you are talking to.”

Solorzano has experienced incorrect judgments too. He offered suggestions for how people can avoid stereotypical thinking.

“People need to be educated to start with,” Solorzano said. “They need to start with actual information instead of perception. They need to be open-minded and deal with problems from a more holistic view. They need to break the suspicion that Latinos are here to damage the country. We are not here to damage it. We are here to build it.”

Education is a common theme among these three individuals. They view it as an essential means of self-improvement.

Patricia Dark helps lead two organizations that aim to educate and break down barriers and has met many challenges along the way.

“Opening a school is like building an airplane in the air,” she said. “But, when you dedicate yourself to something you just do it. You don’t walk away from something you start.”

While Dark’s daughters Katie, 5, and Elizabeth, 7, have the unique status of triple citizenship in England, Argentina and the United States, not all immigrants enjoy this benefit.

Undocumented students face adversity in their goals of personal betterment. Yet these students may still have hope for an affordable education.

“One of our biggest supporters is Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.,” Dark said. “He understands the importance of diversity and languages.”

The outcome for House Bill 241 has not been decided. However, Patricia Quijano Dark and others who value education will continue to advocate for the benefits that it brings.


Una educación diversa en Salt Lake City


Patricia Quijano Dark quiere que sus hijas aprecien la diversidad en su comunidad. Pero las escuelas publicas cercas de su casa en sandy no ofrecen esto. Así que con la ayuda de cuatro mujeres Dark creo la escuela con el nombre Dual Immersion Academy, cual Abrió sus puertas en Septiembre 2007.

En esta Academia hemos alcanzado mas diversidad, mas color y lenguajes, Dark dijo.

La primera escuela completamente bilingüe en Utah, DIA les enseña a los estudiantes todo tipo de materia en ambos ingles y español, desde kinder hasta el sexto año.

Los niños desarrollan rápidamente la habilidad de poder leer y escribir en ambos idiomas. Esto les ayuda a los estudiantes a comunicarse uno con el otro quebrando la barreras e incrementar los diferentes tipos de historias, ideas y experiencias que tiene cada estudiante.

Armando Solórzano, profesor en el departamento de Estudios de Familia y consumo en la Universidad de Utah, esta de acuerdo con Dark.

“La DIA es algo muy positivo,” dijo Solórzano. “Los niños están en la escuela juntos desde muy pequeños, así crecen juntos entendiendo las diferencias de cada uno. Esto rompe el ciclo de racismo y discriminación.

A parte de romper esas barreras culturales DIA tiene mas que ofrecer, Dark dice que los estudiantes que vienen a escuelas como Dual Immersion Academy tienen un 70 por ciento mas en probabilidad en ir a una universidad.

Sin embargo, en el estado de Utah, el alto costo universitario afecta la oportunidad para que estos niños puedan asistir a una Universidad.

En el 2002 el Estado de Utah paso proposito 144 a ser ley, cual permite a estudiantes indocumentados asistir a una universidad publica, pagar el costo como estudiante local que seria mas barato que pagar como estudiante extranjero. Los jóvenes tienen que tener ciertos requisitos para pagar como estudiante local. Pero con el propósito 241 llega a pasar el beneficio de costo estatal puede ser revocado y los estudiantes tendrán que pagar mas.

Propósito 241 contra ataca los esfuerzos que Dark, subiendo el costo de colegiatura. En DIA mas de la mitad de los 350 estudiantes viven en pobresa.

Solórzano dice que el sistema educativo no ofrece las mismas oportunidades a todos. De hecho detener la educación para latinos daña no solo a ellos, pero también a la comunidad.

“Por que no dejamos que estos estudiantes vengan a estudiar?” dijo Solórzano. “Les estamos limitando oportunidades y afecta a la economía de Utah. Y estos jóvenes no podrán competir con una sociedad globalizada.”

Dark dice que el poder de consumo del los Latinos sobrepasa los $5 billones y para el año 2010 se espera que sobrepase los $6.5 billones. Este poder de consumo disminuirá si estos jóvenes no podrán asistir a una Universidad y obtener trabajos con buen sueldo.

Estos números coinciden con u articulo publicado por Mark Álvarez con el “center for public policy and administation” en la Universidad de Utah. El articulo titulado “Participación del Latino.” El espera que el poder de consumo del latino en Estado Unidos alcance los $6.2 billones para 2010.

Mientras en Utah existe una conexión entre la educación y el negocio. También ay una conexión con la vida de la Sra. Dark.

Su meta de educar a niños va mano en mano a sus esfuerzos a educar a adultos por medio de The Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Dark de 41 años de edad acepto la posición de directora ejecutiva en el chamber después de trabajar como reportera en Argentina e Inglaterra. Una de sus metas es proveer un lugar de recursos para imigrantes que no están familiarizados como es la vida en Utah.

Recientemente Dark a organizado pequeños talleres donde la gente se juntan disfrutan de comida y refrescos. Mientras se conocen, comparten experiencias, y crean contactos para expandir o empezar sus propios negocios.

Dark dio a reconocer que muchos imigrantes de otros países están educados, pero tienen problemas integrándose a una nueva cultura debido a no estar familiarizado como el negocio y la educación trabaja en este país.

Estudiante Carlos Paz de 27 años de edad se identifica muy bien con este tipo de casos.

Paz se recibió en administración de negocios en la Universidad De Buenos Aires, y un asociados en Ciencias de salud en Brigham Young University, y pronto se recibirá en fisiología en la Universidad de Utah y una carrera chica en psicología. Una vez de graduarse el planea en ir a escuela medica.

A pesar de sus éxito académico, Paz nos menciona de los desafios con los cuales se a encontrado.

“Cuando llegue a los Estado Unidos tenia que explicar la forma en que estaba pensando,” explico Paz. “Por ejemplo, cuando hacia matemáticas el resultado estaba bien pero el trabajo que hacia era diferente. Así que me marcaban el problema mal, y tenia que explicar mi forma de procesar el problema.”

Paz viajo un poco a los Estado Unidos mientras iba al colegio. Paz menciona, cuando se trataba de trabajos academicos la gente tenia bajas expectativas. Se burlaban de la forma en que hablaba y le molestaba la forma en que los otros estudiantes lo trataban.

Dark menciona como ciertos conceptos que algunos tienen acerca de gente lleva a alguien ser juzgado incorrectamente.

“Ay un concepto erróneo de que todos los Latinos somos iguales, y vemos esto en los medios. No hay que subestimar con aquel quien estas hablando.”

Solórzano también a tenido malas experiencias en la forma que a sido juzgado. El ofrece sugerencias en que forma de evadir el esteriotipo que la gente puede tener acerca de Latinos.

“Primero la gente tiene la necesidad de educarse. Necesitan empezar con información actual en ves de percepciones. Necesitan mantener una mente abierta y enfrentar los problemas en una forma mas pacifica. Necesitan deshacerse de la idea que Latinos están aquí para dañar el país. No estamos aquí para hacerle daño, estamos aquí para construirlo.”

La educación es algo muy común en este tercio. Ellos ven la educación como una forma de mejorarse.

Patricia Dark se a enfrenado con varios retos ya que es parte de dos organizaciones donde la meta es educar y romper barreras.

“Abrir una escuela es como construír un avión en el aire,” expreso Dark. “Pero cuando te dedicas a algo nada mas tienes que hacerlo. No puedes dejar algo que acabas de empezar.”

Las hijas de Patricia Dark, Katie de 5 años y Elizabeth de 7, tienen la rara comodidad de tener tres ciudadanías en Inglaterra, Argentina, y los Estados Unidos. No todos los inmigrantes disfrutan de este beneficio.

Estudiantes indocumentados se enfrentan contra varios obstáculos en tratar de alcanzar sus metas, pero de cualquier manera estos estudiantes tienen esperanza en tener una educación accesible.

“Tenemos el gran apoyo del Gobernador Jon Huntsman Jr.,” menciona Dark. “El entiende la importancia de diversidad y lenguajes.”

Todavía no se a dado el resultado sobre el propósito 241. Pero de todas formas Patricia Quijano Dark y otros quienes valoran la educación seguirán apoyando los beneficios que de a la comunidad.

Dual Immersion Academy succeeds despite setbacks, bigotry


Some people see unmet needs in their communities, wonder why, hope that somebody will do something, then forget about it in the rush of daily life. Other people, like freelance journalist Patricia Dark, see these same unmet needs and realize they are the “somebody” that everybody else is hoping for.

“If something doesn’t exist and there is a need you can see, or if you don’t find what you need, you create it,” Dark said in a recent interview.

It was that determined mindset that led to the opening last year of the Dual Immersion Academy, Salt Lake City’s first public charter school at which both Spanish and English speaking students are placed in classes together and spend their days learning with each other, and from each other, in both languages.

When Dark came to the United States with her family three years ago, her Argentine-born daughters, Elizabeth and Kathryn, were 4 years old and 2 years old, respectively, and spoke only Spanish. Within a couple of years, Dark said, she noticed they were speaking only English and had actually begun to forget their native Spanish.

“I didn’t know you could lose a language,” she said. “It amazes me how few people in America speak a second language. It also amazes me how many new arrivals to the country don’t realize the need to speak English.”

As Dark and her family settled in Salt Lake City, she also noticed a troubling lack of visibility when it came to the different local non-white populations, populations with proud histories and rich traditions to contribute.

“There was no diversity, no color, no culture here,” she said. “No stories.”

She said she was familiar with the dual immersion concept of teaching and recognized how that model could work to address both of these problems. Within months she had recruited a group of local mothers and filed the necessary state paperwork to launch a charter school.

The academy, located at 1155 South Glendale Drive in Salt Lake City, opened its doors in September 2007. Roughly half of the 350 students come from Spanish speaking homes and half come from English speaking homes. All books and learning materials are bilingual.

One day the students do everything in Spanish and the next day they do everything in English. The result, Dark said, is students who are “not only bilingual, but also bi-literate.” She said studies show that students from these types of schools are 70 percent more likely to go to college.

“The kids use more of their brains,” she said. “They are like zombies the first week. It’s a lot of work to do everything in two languages.”

It is also a lot of work, as Dark said she quickly discovered, to open and run a first-of-its-kind charter school. Several problems arose that she had not foreseen, and most of the ones she had been anticipating turned out to be worse than expected.

“Opening a school is like building an airplane in the air,” she said. “I had no idea how difficult it would be.”

The school ran out of funding before the cafeteria could be completed, and the outdoor tent being used as a temporary facility blew apart in a recent storm. The students now eat lunch in the classrooms, which are carpeted. Combine kids, food and carpet and you get a mess, Dark said, and teachers have had to relinquish their much-needed preparation time in order to supervise.

Dark also has to contend with ignorance and bigotry on a daily basis, and said she has been startled by the intensity of it. She has received frightening and angry calls demanding to know why she is giving “illegal aliens” a free education, or wondering how she could dare to teach Spanish in an English-speaking country.

Dark, 41, was born in New York and raised in a bilingual household. Both of her parents worked at the United Nations – her father as an Argentine diplomat and her mother as a clerk. She attended college at Columbia University, majoring in international politics. During her junior year, she said, a serendipitous mix-up over an internship assignment in England resulted in both a career and a husband.

Instead of working in Parliament as planned, she was given a job at a London publication where current Salt Lake City Weekly writer Stephen Dark was working as the business editor. When the internship ended, she had a marriage that she described as an adventure and a career writing for newspapers and magazines that would take her to three different continents.

Dark moved with her family from Buenos Aires to Salt Lake City three years ago after the collapse of the Argentine economy. When she arrived, she took a position with Mundo Hispano, a regional Spanish language newspaper. She said she learned a great deal about the local Hispanic community while reporting for the newspaper and recognized many things that could be done to help community business owners.

She got involved with the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and, last year, was named its executive director, becoming the first woman to serve in that post. Since taking the helm, she has worked to increase small-business membership and has developed a series of chamber-sponsored workshops on topics ranging from taxes to marketing.

“So much of the knowledge necessary to be successful as a business owner is practical details that can’t be taught in a classroom,” Dark said. “But there was really nowhere locally to learn these things.”

Dark also saw a need for networking opportunities and started hosting a series of events at the chamber. At one of these, she said, a local man with a small cleaning service met a vice president at Wells Fargo Bank. That man now has 500 employees and a long-term contract to clean the Wells Fargo Building in downtown Salt Lake.

However, Dark said she considers the Dual Immersion Academy her greatest achievement – and her biggest headache. She said she still needs a great deal of financial help to make it completely what she envisions. At the moment, the school can’t even provide bus service to the students, which hinders recruitment efforts.

She is, at least, encouraged by the support she gets from Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who took time during the Crandall Canyon mine disaster in Aug. 2007 to attend the school’s grand opening. And she knows that, despite all of the problems, she is doing exactly what she set out to do.

“The important thing is that the kids are learning,” she said. “And we are achieving diversity.”


Dual Immersion Academy triunfa a pesar de contratiempos y fanatismo


Algunas personas reconocen que hay cierta necesidad en sus comunidades, se preguntan porque existe, y esperan que alguien haga algo al respecto. Después siguen con su vida cotidiana y lo olvidan. Otras personas, como la periodista independiente Patricia Dark se dan cuenta de estas necesidades y ven que ellos son el “alguien” que los demás están esperando.

Recientemente un una entrevista Dark dijo: “Te puedes dar cuenta que hay algo que necesitas pero no existe, entonces si no encuentras eso que necesitas, lo construyes.”

Esa mentalidad fue lo que llevo el abrir la escuela Dual Immersion academy cual abrió el ano pasado. La primera escuela publica donde ambos estudiantes latinos y norte americanos toman parte en clases y aprenden de uno al otro, tanto como en ingles como español.

Dark se mudo con su familia desde la Argentina a los Estados Unidos hace tres años. Sus hijas Elizabeth 4 años y Kathryn de 2, hablaban español. Pero en un par de anos Dark se dio cuenta que sus hijas hablaban solo ingles y se les estaba olvidando su lenguaje natal.

“No sabia que podrías perder un lenguaje,” dijo Dark. “Me asombra como pocas personas en América hablan un segundo idioma, y también el hecho do como aquellos que acaban de llegar no se dan cuenta de la necesidad de hablar el Ingles.”

“Aquí no había diversidad, o color o cultura. No hay historias.”

Ella estaba familiarizada con el concepto de combinación en el sector educativo, y reconoció como este modelo podría ayudar en resolver estos problemas. En unos meses ella recluto a madres en la comunidad y llenaron los papeles requeridos por el estado para empezar una escuela charter.

Esta academia esta localizada en 11 south Glendale Drive en Salt Lake City. Abrió sus puertas en Septiembre 2007. Aproximadamente la mitad de los 350 estudiantes vienen de hogares donde se habla español. Y la otra mitad en donde se habla ingles. Todos los libros y materiales son bilingües

Un día los estudiantes hacen todo en español y el otro día lo hacen en ingles. Dark dice que los estudiantes “no solo son bilingües, pero también leen y escriben en ambos idiomas.” También menciona que hay estadistas que dicen que los estudiantes cuales van a este tipos de escuela tienen 70 por ciento mas en posibilidad de ir a una Universidad.

La Sra. Dark dice que “los niños usan mas su cerebro. Son como zombis en la primera semana. Es mucho trabajo hacer todo en dos lenguajes”

También se dio cuenta que es mucho trabajo abrir y manejar una escuela que es la primera de su tipo. Hubo muchos problemas que Dark no había previsto, y aquellos cuales anticipo fueron peor de lo que ella esperaba.

“Abrir una escuela es como construir un avión en el aire. No tenia idea que tan difícil podría ser.”

Los fondos de la escuela se agotaron antes de que la cafetería pudiera ser terminada. Y una carpa cual eras usada temporalmente como salón fue destruida después de una tormenta. Los estudiantes ahora comen su almuerzo en los salones, cuales tienen alfombra. “Combina a niños, comida y alfombra y tienes un salón sucio,” dijo Dark. Y los maestros tienen que supervisar a los niños cual quita el tiempo para poder prepararse para sus clases.

A parte de eso Dark se enfrento contra ignorancia y fanatismo. Recibía llamadas donde personas demandaban saber porque les daba educacion gratis a ilegales, o porque enseñaba español en un país donde se habla ingles.

Dark de 41 anos nació en Nueva York y creció en un hogar bilingüe. Sus padres trabajaban para la Naciones Unidas — su papa como un diplomata Argentino, y su mama como vendedora. Ella fue a la Universidad de Columbia, donde se recibió en política internacional. Durante su penúltimo ano escolar mientras hacia un servicio de interno en Inglaterra resulto en conseguir carrera y marido.

En lugar de trabajar en Parlamento como ella planeaba, le dieron un trabajo en un periódico en Londres donde Stephen Dark que ahora escribe para el periódico local Salt Lake City Weekly, estaba trabajando como editor. Cuando su trabajo como interno termino, Dark estaba en un matrimonio cual ella describe como una aventura, y con una carrera escribiendo para periódicos y revistas que la llevaron por tres continentes.

Dark se mudo de la Argentina a Salt Lake City hace tres años cuando callo la economía de dicho país. Aquí, empezó a trabajar para Mundo Hispano. Un periódico regional en español, ella aprendió bastante acerca de la comunidad latina y mientras reportaba para el periódico reconoció que muchas cosas se podrian hacer para ayudar a los dueños de negocios en la comunidad latina.

Se involucro en el Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Y el ano pasado fue nombrada director ejecutivo, convirtiéndose en la primera mujer en servir en dicho puesto. Desde que tomo el mando, a trabajado en incrementar el numero de negocios locales y a desarrollado series de talleres que hablan de asuntos como la mercadotecnia.

“Hay mucho conocimiento que es necesario para tener éxito como dueña/ño de tu propio negocio. Son cosas que no se aprenden en la escuela. Y no había lugares donde aprender estas cosas.”

Dark también vio la necesidad en crear una red de oportunidades en la comunidad hispana. Organizo eventos en el comercio hispano donde latinos interactuan unos con los otros. Dark cuenta que en uno de estos eventos un hombre que tiene su servicio de limpieza conoció al vicepresidente del banco Wells Fargo. Ese hombre ahora tiene 500 empleados y un contrato de largo plazo para limpiar edificios de Wells Fargo en el centro en Salt Lake City.

A pesar de todo, Dark considera a Dual Immersion Academy su logro mas grande tanto como un gran dolor de cabeza. Todavía se necesita gran ayuda financiera para ver terminada su visión. Por el momento la escuela todavía no puede proveer servicio de autobús para los alumnos cual hiere los esfuerzos en reclutar mas estudiantes.

Algo que le da animo a Dark es el apoyo del Gobernador Jon Huntsman Jr., quien a tomado tiempo durante el desastre de la mina Crandal Canyon el año pasado para atender la apertura de la escuela. Y ella sabe que a pesar de todo los problemas que a tenido ella esta haciendo exactamente lo que se propuso.

“Lo importante es que los niños aprendan y que alcancemos diversidad.”


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