By the year 2042, the U.S. Census Bureau reports there will be a shift to a majority-minority population in the United States, where more than half of all children born will be minorities. With that in mind, camps are celebrating the different cultures and ethnicities of the world.
Abigayl Panisi, president of Lake Norman Language Academy, made sure residents in Mooresville and surrounding areas had a place that would cater to the second-largest language spoken in the country, Spanish.
“It used to be that you had to learn the computer,” she said. “Now, it’s important to know a foreign language, especially Spanish. The job market has become very competitive. When you think about jobs (and employers), if you have to choose between the person who only speaks English versus the person who speaks English and another language, you may go with someone who has experience with another language, bringing more to you and the company.”
Panisi’s Spanish summer camp for beginners focuses on everyday language use by using real-life situations like ordering food off of a menu to learn the language.
“We are going to have role-playing where kids will switch from being waiters, to greeters, to customers,” she said. “It’s a way to learn (conventionally) and have fun at the same time. I want them to leave the classes learning things they can use the next time they go to a Mexican restaurant or go to the supermarket.”
Learning about food and culture from other countries is what Bon Voyage: Cultures of the World Camp offered in Cornelius is all about. The Cornelius Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture Department provides a place for kids ages 5 to 10 to create passports, learning about five different countries. From Chinese ink painting to Italian Carnivale masks, participants learn about the variety of global art and craft techniques.
“Campers will have an opportunity to go through five different countries in the five days,” said Mindi Ellison, arts center program manager for the Town of Cornelius. “Every summer we try to add a cultural and arts program to bring awareness to the countries in the world and around us.” With the Boy Vonage camps filling up to capacity every year, Ellison notes the need for it in the community.
“It’s always positive feedback,” she said. “It’s a big interest in the community, in the area. We see the demand and always make sure we provide a focus on culture and countries.”
Another way of learning about culture and identity comes from dance, said Ryan Swengros, dance and cheer camp program director for Sally’s YMCA in Denver. Campers from kindergarten to fifth-grade learn the art of hip-hop dance, modern dance, ballet, chants and small stunts.
“Besides skill and development focus, we want to work on broader goals,” Swengros said. “It’s important to instill confidence energy levels but also teach dance as an introduction to the different kind of cultures we have.”
For each dance style, a different dance instructor will be assigned to teach the campers.
“We want to blend belongingness and friendship for everyone, and music and dancing from different regions do that,” Swengros said. “Dance is an avenue we get to use to bridge our communities, allowing an increase in diversity and inclusion.”
Ultimately breaking stereotypes, Panisi said learning languages break more barriers in an easier way.
“It (learning a secondary language to English) becomes more fun,” she said. “Traveling becomes more fun when you know the language of the country. It’s another way to meet people from other countries and places, learning about customs. For example, Latin people, we like to hug, a lot. People who aren’t familiar with that concept, will be like ‘Why is she hugging me?’ But once you get familiar with another language, you start studying the cultures and start understanding the ‘Why.’ We live in a big beautiful world, where language and culture go hand in hand, coming from one another. When you get to know people, you can start to understand people.”
By Amarra Ghani
Mar 10, 2017