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Wofford program honored during stamp unveiling

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

U.S. Postal Service highlights landmark decision in Hispanic education 

Wofford program honored during stamp unveiling.SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Greater South Carolina District of the U.S. Postal Service honored Wofford College’s community-based learning advanced Spanish program today (Tuesday, Oct. 23) with a local unveiling of a new stamp that honors a landmark decision in Hispanic education.

The event took place at Arcadia Elementary School, where students are served by the Wofford program.

Mary Ellen Padin, diversity development specialist for the Greater S.C. District of the Postal Service, and Harry Spratlin, in the pubic affairs and communications office of the USPS in Columbia, attended the unveiling.

The Mendez v. Westminster stamp design was unveiled nationally on Sept. 14 by the National Diversity Initiatives and the Chicago Post Office.  The unveiling helped kick off the 78th National Convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), America’s largest and oldest Hispanic organization.  The stamp commemorates the 60th anniversary of the landmark case that successfully desegregated all California public schools and became a legal precedent for broader decisions involving segregation nationwide.

S.C. District officials elected to honor Wofford’s Advanced Spanish with Community Based Learning program, founded and directed by Wofford professor Dr. Laura Barbas-Rhoden, in the Arcadia community to highlight the program’s service to the Hispanic community.  The program was recognized in 2004 by S.C. Commission on Higher Education.

The program places Wofford students of Spanish in the midst of the Upstate’s growing Hispanic population for service to that segment of the community and for broadening the cultural understanding and deepening the linguistic abilities of the Wofford students engaged in the project.  Wofford students serve as mentors in the Spartanburg public schools to Hispanic students, in after-school programs, and as volunteers in adult education initiatives in the county.

Here are details of the Advanced Spanish with Community-Based Learning Spanish 303 course at Wofford:

Basic course details:
• Launched in 2002 by Professor Laura Barbas-Rhoden
• Won the S.C. Commission on Higher Education award for Excellence in Service Learning for the 2003-2004 school year
• Addresses the integration of the Latino community into life in Upstate South Carolina, especially in the field of education
• Involves more than 50 first and second-year college students in civic engagement, particularly educational outreach to elementary children.
• Wofford students mentor elementary school children from districts with high Latino enrollments, such as Spartanburg District 6
• Long-standing relationship with Arcadia Elementary (Principal Dr. Chuck Bagwell, a Wofford alumnus), where up to 55 percent of the students are Latino. Work with students during school hours, at Arcadia Elementary School in the after-school Boys and Girls Club (grades 3-6), and at ARCH hosted at Arcadia United Methodist Church (grades K-2)

Forms of civic engagement by Wofford students in schools:
• collaborate as classroom helpers
• help teachers explain assignments and assess student learning
• work with recently immigrated children to integrate them into classroom activities and develop English skills
• provide homework help in after-school programs
• interact with children in recreational activities
• bring ARCH K-2 students once monthly to Wofford for an afternoon activity and meal to expose children to college campus early in educational careers (this program is called “La U y tú” and was launched by a student in Dr. Barbas-Rhoden’s course; it is continued by another student who assumed leadership after taking the course).

College classroom component:
• course pack of readings from local press on the Latino community, organized by theme
• integrated weekly reflective writing assignments in Spanish
• weekly class period dedicated to integrating experiential learning with materials covered in text (culture, grammar, vocabulary-building)

“The activities in which our students are involved represent the very best of American education to me,” Barbas-Rhoden says.  “They work with committed teachers in a caring community to help kids dream and strive to be the best they can be in school and in life.  We are honored to work in the public schools here, and we really enjoy seeing the progress of children just beyond the gates of Wofford’s campus.”