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Building Bridges Celebrates CHCCS Dual Language Programs

DL Bridges Mandarin art The original plan had been to celebrate biliteracy March 15 in a community-wide event on the front field at Lincoln Center. Then the rains came, yet Building Bridges, a showcase of CHCCS dual language (DL) programs, triumphed with Plan B, filling the gym at Phoenix Academy High School (PAHS). More than 200 people visited the displays and activity tables, as well as watched a range of presentations and performances in Spanish and Mandarin. A delicious assortment of dishes from local businesses and fundraising groups allowed participants to enjoy dinner while the rains came down.

Helen Atkins, coordinator of English Learner and Dual Language Programming, developed a plan for Building Bridges over a period of six weeks, calling on her tireless staff at the International Welcome Center, in addition to many district leaders and DL teachers. A battalion of 87 volunteers assisted in the set-up, activities and clean-up, many of them high school students who had attended a DL school or were English learners themselves. Plenty of parent volunteers pitched in, too.

Despite the weather conditions, we consider the event a huge success!” Atkins said. “It was a very powerful testament to see so much of the entire community come out to learn and celebrate dual language and the importance of biliteracy.”

DL Bridges brothers Among the activities and displays from the Spanish DL programs at Frank Porter Graham Bilingue (FPGB) and Carrboro Elementary (CES) were a craft table for making papel picado and flag ornaments and third grade students presenting their Wax Museum monologues in Spanish and English. On stage, FPGB students demonstrated capoeira (martial arts) and danced “Caballito Nicoyano” from Costa Rica, as well as "La Pollera Colora" and "Yo me Llamo Cumbia" from Colombia.

Students and teachers from Glenwood Elementary (GES) Mandarin DL taught visitors how to write simple calligraphy, decorate paper lanterns and create ornate paper cuttings. For their turn on stage, Mandarin DL students sang a Chinese martial art song, and kindergarten students performed “China Talk.” And these are just a few of the cultural demonstrations offered to participants.

The event brought together current and former DL students sharing how DL and their use of languages has impacted their lives, including opportunities for international travel and language study after high school.  Atkins said, “For any families who haven’t thought about DL as an opportunity for their student, this event gives them the chance to see what it is all about.”

DL Bridges East club Atkins said, “When I talk to our students - regardless of whether they’re learning Spanish or Mandarin - they show me how being a part of DL has changed and enriched their lives. They are taking what they learn in their DL classes and already see a plan on how to apply this knowledge throughout the rest of their lives. To see biliteracy in action is something extraordinary and certainly something to celebrate.”