The sisterhood that began two years ago between two Oxford schools in Michigan and an elementary school in Tlalnepantla, Mexico, is continuing to grow strong.
This week, a group of 17 students from 4th, 5th, and 6th grade at the Juana de Asbaje Elementary School in Mexico are visiting their friends from Lakeville Elementary School and Leonard Elementary School in Oxford, to practice their English language skills and to have the opportunity to interact with them on a personal basis, in order to learn more from one another.
Professor of Spanish at Leonard Elementary, María Álvarez-Valero, explained that this government-sponsored program where students from two different countries are able to establish contact beginning at long distance with the use of Skype, is truly the way of the future.
The Oxford-Tlalnepantla partnership is allowing American students to learn from other students their own age, about life in another country. Interaction is made easier by the fact that Mexican students begin learning English since first grade, and students in the Oxford School District are also learning Spanish. This allows everyone to communicate successfully, and provides both groups with a unique opportunity to reinforce their foreign language skills.
During their visit, Mexican students visiting Oxford are being hosted by the American families whose children will in turn be hosted by the families of the Mexican students when they visit Mexico in November 1st, 2014.
The date for the American students to travel to Mexico will be especially interesting, as it will coincide with the celebrations of the Day of the Dead, one of the most colorful and interesting holidays in Mexico. Even though the Oxford Schools are studying about the history of this holiday, seeing it live will be an unforgettable experience of these elementary school students.
Professor Álvarez-Sotelo explained that their Oxford schools also celebrate the Day of the Dead, by setting up altars, and by eating the traditional Pan de Muerto (a type of sugar-coated bread, served only during the Día de Muerto celebrations). Children are encouraged to bring photos of deceased relatives, just as it is done in rural Mexico. And with the use of Skype, they also have the opportunity to look at the altars set by their friends from the Juana de Asbaje school in Mexico.
Lakeville and Leonard Elementary Schools now have also adopted and celebrate Mexico´s traditional Día del Niño (Day of the Child) on April 30th.
"Wherever we go, we miss our culture and we celebrate it everywhere we are", explained Professor Álvarez-Sotelo.
Leonard and Lakeview Elementary Schools have three Spanish teachers, all native speakers, so classes include not only grammar and spelling, but also accurate descriptions of the Mexican culture. On the other hand, students in Mexico also learn about American traditions and history.
The students from Mexico are here accompanied by the Director of Education in Tlalnepantla, Daniel Ochoa Ramírez, and by their English teachers.
This partnership program was originally started by former Mexican Consul Vicente-Sánchez Ventura, in collaboration with Oxford Public Schools. The Tlalnepantla Mayor, Arturo Ugalde-Meneses, and other government officials from Mexico met with Paul Mc Devitt, Leonard Elementary School Principalñ Kristy Gibson-Marshall, Lakeville Elementary School Principalñ and other officials from the Oxford School District both in Mexico and in the US prior to finalizing and signing the Partnership Agreement in May of 2013.
Sisterhoods between schools in two different countries might be the key to breach cultural divisions and to create a generation of truly intercultural professionals in the near future.