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Meeting demographic demands

By Katharine Calabro - kcalabro@ftimes.com

Purdue Extension of Clinton County is adding a new program, Spanish for Kids, for grades second through fourth.

The program is set to start on Oct. 24 and run through May 1. As of now, second grade is full, but the office is extending the deadline for sign up to Oct. 9 to fill remaining spots for third and fourth grade. All together, the program will cap at 24 students.

The idea came about when Clinton County Human Development Extension Educator Esmeralda Cruz saw a need in the community which came directly from families within the county.

“Several parents shared (that) their children have friends who speak spanish, and they want to learn,” she said.

According to Cruz, the program is focusing on grades second through fourth because research shows that it takes an average of five years to learn a language and learn it well. She said the hope is that the program allows for children to start at a younger age and continue all three years.

The program was fairly easy for Purdue Extension to create as they have done previous biliteracy programs in the past. Cruz said the program is modeling some aspects, but the content is different.

“The biliteracy program is for children who are born already into spanish speaking families but don’t know how to read or write in their language,” she said. “We took that model and replicated it but the content and focus is different.”

If the program continues to become a higher demand, Office Manager Bethany Perlee said the office will adapt to the community’s needs.

“That’s kind of how Purdue Extension works; if we see demand, we cater to that,” she said.

Perlee said the demand of spanish is becoming more fluent today, and this gives children the opportunity to have a better understanding of the culture for when they get older.

Classes are from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday and for children in the township, transportation is available. The program is $50 for sign up, but scholarships are available.

Although Cruz is excited to get started, she said it wouldn’t have been possible without the support from the community, including Center Township. She said Center Township provided funding for Purdue Extension to pilot the program.

“We are so fortunate to work with a lot of people who are willing to invest time to make this possible,” Cruz said.

With the program being once a week, Cruz said the instructors will work on providing content, not just vocabulary. In doing this, students should be able to create phases. She said in every unit a set of keywords and phrases will be presented so children can apply the language beyond words.

“The more you practice the more it stays with you, so I’m hoping that will occur,” Cruz said.