Studying up for school

Published 7:25 am Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Kayli Gonzalez, left, and Jennifer Villapando work on a flag they were making while studying Asian countries during the Global Village Language Camp Tuesday. --Eric Johnson/

Kayli Gonzalez and Jennifer Villapando, both heading into the fifth grade this fall, were busy Tuesday morning with markers, crayons, glue and construction paper.

The two weren’t just doing arts and crafts though, they were spending a sunny summer morning studying.

Global Village Language Camp volunteer Christina Walsh looks over the shoulders of Mariana Lemus, from left, Gilberto Vasquez and Francisco Silvilla Tuesday at Riverland Community College. The class was making collages from items found in nature. --Eric Johnson/

Gonzalez and Villapando are among 50 children attending the Global Language Camp on the Riverland Community College campus this week.

Email newsletter signup

This is the ninth year the camp has been held in Austin and it brought in 12 volunteers from around the state to teach English this week to students in grades one through five.

Valentina Gallegos, director of the camp, said that the week has been moving along smoothly.

“A lot of our kids are fluent in two languages, but this is an opportunity to practice English again before school starts,” she said. “We also have some newcomers who are getting some exposure to English this summer.”

An extra challenge was added to the camp this year so that advanced students can continue to improve their language skills, Gallegos added.

For the challenge, students split into pairs and selected a country to study all week before presenting their findings at the end of camp in front of their teachers and parents.

“We’re working on Vietnam,” Villapando said, while crafting a flag out of construction paper. “It’s interesting. I have never been there… It’s fun to learn about.”

Gallegos said that students chose their countries for a variety of reasons — a pair of siblings were studying Lebanon because it is where their parents are from.

“They are just super excited about it,” she said.

Global Language Camp started out as Global Volunteers in 1984 as a private, non-profit, group with the goal of helping to establish peace through international understanding. Based in St. Paul, Minn., Global Volunteers now works to connect people of diverse cultures by involving them in a variety of one-on-one service projects, according to the group’s website.

The volunteers at Riverland this week came from as far away as Washington, Florida and California — and some are from Austin. They are not required to have a teaching background, but many do, Gallegos said.

Mary TaFoya, of Chicago, is a retired teacher who volunteered with the students preparing for fifth-grade Tuesday.

“I’ve always been a volunteer… And, I like to travel. This sounded like an adventure, and as a teacher, it’s right up my alley.”

Also teaching the future fifth-graders was Bridgit Martin, of New Jersey, who is a teacher, too.

“I’ve been very impressed with their English skills. It’s been a great experience as a volunteer,” she said.

For more information about Global Volunteers, go to