Establish a World Language Community Advisory Board
Parthena Draggett, Jackson High School Spanish Teacher & World Language Department Head, OFLA Technology Integration Committee
Greetings OFLA Colleagues! I hope that everyone had a wonderful first semester and is looking forward to a new year of more great accomplishments and adventures in teaching and learning. I am writing this article to share my story of a collaboration that has greatly enhanced opportunities for World Language students at Jackson High School, and also to offer advice and support for establishing similar programs in your schools.
Almost five years ago (April 2010), we began the Jackson High School World Language Community Advisory Board. As department head, for quite some time I had been thinking about community collaborations and how we could engage members of our community in helping us to bring more global opportunities and international experiences to our students as we prepare them for 21st Century skills and future professions. My inspiration was partially due to our student population and conversations with parents who loved sharing their experiences in various careers and the importance of languages in their professions. I had also had several speakers at Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica induction ceremonies who had shared their personal experiences and enthusiasm for the role that languages play in their success. My SHH members were teaching Spanish to approximately twenty Jackson EMS/Firefighters. I knew that the time was right and needed to seize a greater opportunity to show students why learning languages are so relevant for their futures and to promote career connections and opportunities for them while still in high school, to bring languages to life, encouraging them to strive for greater proficiency for their future success.
So, I worked with our Curriculum Director, Linda Salom, to get the ball rolling and plan for a well-rounded, diverse representation of board members. I wanted as many professions, companies, and organizations as possible represented, as well as parents and staff, and of course student members. We drafted an invitation letter explaining our goals in establishing the community advisory board (CAB) and what we hoped to achieve for our students and sent it to the list of target members that we had compiled. The response was phenomenal! Before I knew it, we had board members from Diebold, Goodyear, Timken, Koch-Knight, medicine, law, social services, Jackson EMS/Firefighters, higher education, and parents with international connections, as well as very globally-minded students from all our language programs. We set our first meeting and I prepared folders with Ohio’s Standards, a brochure about our department, literature about world language learning, and contact information, as well as our agenda.
Since then, the Community Advisory Board has progressed and evolved to be a very engaged, integral part of Jackson Local Schools and our success. Students are more committed than ever to studying languages through AP and to really make language learning part of their career plan. They are impressed by the fact that we have professionals from major companies and organizations donating their time and expertise for Jackson students’ success. As I stated earlier, I also have student members on the Board. Every year I choose four to six rising seniors from all languages who have shown enthusiasm for language learning and international connections and to serve on the Board. This has become quite a privilege, as they enjoy our meetings and the role they have as contributing Board members, collaborating with respected community members and representing their peers. They also serve as Masters of Ceremony at our annual Global Opportunities Night, literally taking the stage. And, it was our student members who drafted our mission statement:
The Jackson High School World Language Community Advisory Board looks outside our community. Together we strive to:
- Break Language Boundaries,
- Make Connections with the World,
- Gain Knowledge and Understanding of Other Cultures,
- Broaden Cultural Perspectives within our Community, and
- Provide Jackson Students with Global Opportunities.
We have had many successes as a result of our members’ vision and leadership. In October 2011 we had our first Global Opportunities Night, chaired by CAB member Steve Marrero, of Erico Corporation. It was the first big event sponsored by our Board and one which has now become a highly anticipated, yearly event. Last November was our fourth annual evening “Capitalizing on Global Opportunities: The Need for Global Awareness at Home and Abroad.” Steve Marrero and Dr. Rusty Adams (Goodyear) co-chaired and led our steering committee. Highlights included our keynote speaker, W.R. “Tim” Timken, former Ambassador to Germany and CEO of The Timken Company, a filmed message from Governor Kasich, and 30 businesses and organizations present to to bridge rigorous classroom instruction with real world interaction. As such, the purpose of our event was threefold:
- To give tomorrow’s leaders from JHS an opportunity to further their understanding that developing language fluency and cultural proficiency is increasingly necessary to succeed in our global economy and for national security.
- To provide a forum where students can engage in robust dialogue with representatives from a broad array of career options and experiences where cultural awareness is a necessary component in the success of their respective businesses, organizations, or institutions.
- To provide a venue for students to exhibit and present their research on assigned countries.
We estimated around 800 in attendance, including teachers and students from area schools. Most rewarding were the comments from students in class the next day (in the target language, of course!), reflecting on their experiences from the night before and the realization that sustained study of languages will give them an edge in their future professions. They were also very impressed with Dr. Kueilan Chen, who came all the way from Monterrey, California, from the Defense Language Institute, who explained the importance of languages for national defense: the military, CIA, FBI, etc.
Although our COGO night is the crowning achievement of the Board overall, there are so many more great results of our work. Just a few examples:
- Supporting and also serving as Board to JAGS, our Jackson Academy for Global Studies, begun during the 2012-13 academic year
- Establishing a support group for international students, led by one of our guidance counselors. This suggestion came from a parent member from South Africa living in Jackson, who emphasized the challenges to adapt to U.S. schools facing students coming from other countries.
- Student visits to companies and speakers in classrooms on a variety of topics of global and linguistic concern
- A visit to New York’s financial district facilitated by CAB member Yago González, of Merrill Lynch.
We originally established three regular meetings per year for the entire Board, with subcommittee meetings depending on events, such as the COGO night. After the first year, our members suggested increasing meetings to four per year. We hold them from 7:00 – 8:00 am four Fridays a year. I always develop my agenda ahead of time and send meeting reminders, as well as follow up minutes. Sometimes members are traveling on business. At our last meeting we actually had a member away on business in Brazil request to be called so he could be present via conference call. What a great real-life professional experience for student members!
And, sometimes you get new members you aren’t expecting such as when Yago González, Director, Multi-Manager Solutions, Merrill Lynch, Wealth Management contacted me when he moved here with his family from N.Y. He had read in the newspaper about our mission and accomplishments and wanted to join our Board! Yago also spoke at one of my SHH induction ceremonies and explained that he advanced at Merrill Lynch because of his global skills: When a position opened to invest in Latin America, he was selected because of his language and cultural literacy, even though there were others at Merrill Lynch more experienced in the company.
Moreover, as I have been quick to point out to our administrators, we world language teachers have striven to make our students globally competent throughout our careers, but we were often the only department doing so, as it was central to our teaching. Now, with more attention and focus on international preparedness, we have help in our schools from other departments and our administrators. What a wonderful time to be a world language educator!
I opened our global opportunities night the last couple of years with this quote from Vivien Stewart, from Becoming Citizens of the World, “U.S. high school graduates will sell to the world; buy from the world; work for international companies; manage employees from other cultures and countries; collaborate with people all over the world in joint ventures; compete with people on the other side of the world for jobs and markets; and tackle global problems, such as AIDS, avian flu, pollution, and disaster recovery.” Ms. Stewart also states, “The future is here. It’s multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual,” and asks, “But are students ready for it?”
Well, with help from community members working together with schools, our students will be ready, and they will be better prepared, greater citizens; citizens not only of Ohio and the U.S., but citizens of the world!
In closing, we at Jackson have seen the great strides made because of community collaborations and bringing the real world application of world languages and cultures to our students. It has been a privilege to share our story with esteemed colleagues and I would be pleased to support your efforts in establishing World Language Community Advisory Boards in your districts.