This past Friday, 9/20, students traveled to the University of Iowa College of Education for a day to recognize world problems and to start to develop solutions for language barriers. The purpose of the conference was to inspire students in their work of obtaining the seal of biliteracy. Students had the opportunity to communicate with people of different origins and identities. The conference was led by Will Behrends from the University of Iowa (Baker Teacher Leader Center) and the guest speaker was Dr. Whitehead from Washington D.C. The students also talked about the importance of language and different cultures.
The conference also focused on the point that students need to understand the role they play in the world and to have compassion for other people in the US and in the world. It also included opportunities to discuss global challenges and some possible solutions.
After the presentation by Dr. Whitehead, the students participated in group discussions. The activities of the event included a game of bingo about the experiences of other people in different cultures. The other activity was about cultural connections and global challenges. The second part of the conference was centered on presentations from community organizations. The students were able to hear about each organization and the work they do for the community. The students learned more about each organization in small groups and chose which one they would like to volunteer with.
The groups at the conference included Iowa City Children’s Museum, United Action for Youth, Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County, North Liberty Community Pantry and Gardens, IC Compassion, Iowa City Parks and Recreation, Council for International Visitors (CIVIC), y Center for Workers Justice.
All of the organizations had a similar message: to help people in the community, many who speak a different language.
The Center for Workers Justice helps workers learn English and gives classes in different subjects for the kids. They also have a place to care for young children while their parents are in class. On October 5th, they are going to have a gala to raise money.
United Action for Youth (UAY) is a place for teenagers where they can feel comfortable and accepted to express themselves and discuss issues they are facing.
The Iowa City Children’s Museum tries to interact with kids and help parents understand what is going on in their children’s lives.
The Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County offer programs before and after school for kids and is focused on providing a variety of services to families with specific needs.
CIVIC is an organization that helps people who live in other countries and come to visit Iowa City. One opportunity for students who volunteer with them is to help show around international representatives visiting and sit in on meetings with the visitors.
Iowa City Compassion helps immigrants settle into their lives and achieve the life they were looking for when they came here. They also provide multiple resources for families and have cultural dinners to help the families build connections with community members.
The North Liberty Community Pantry and Gardens gives food and clothing for those in the community who are in need of these things.
“We think that this past Friday opened our eyes to the importance of the ability to be competent globally. For example, we met a person named Benjamin. He learned English this past year. We are friends now,” said Grace Crimmins and Courtney Olson, seniors.
Another student said, “I learned a lot about my community. I hope to help unfortunate people in my community with volunteer work.”
This conference was important because all of the participants are thinking now about their language and how they want to use it. All the organizations were interesting causing many students to want to work with them and use their ideas on how to help and reach out to more people. It is also an opportunity for kids to help others and do good things.
The conference has an impact on the students in the Seal of Biliteracy class because now they now have more information about the seal and how to obtain it. It also taught students the importance of being an informed person. It is an opportunity to collaborate with some organizations in the area. It highlighted for the students that sometimes it is necessary to put others before themselves. The conference is beneficial for students who want to help others, volunteer, and create a generous world.