This semester Club Despertar has had the opportunity to take their program of tutoring Spanish speaking students from Kennett Square, PA in English to a new level. For the first time, these students are being brought on campus, meeting roughly every other Saturday in Parrish and having lunch at Sharples with Swarthmore students.
The students from Kennett Square are bubbly and vivacious, filling the parlors with activity and interest. Ask any given student what they think of coming to Swarthmore and you are likely to get an enthusiastic response. This past Saturday, February 16, was Nestor Mireles’ first time at Swarthmore. He was excited to be on the campus: “It’s cool… so you don’t get bored at your house.”
Mireles liked having the chance to be in a new environment and meet Swarthmore students while learning with students whom he knows from school. Another student, Jesus, observed that his favorite part about meeting Swarthmore students was “talking about the classes you [Swarthmore students] have and have [you] teach me how to do the stuff that you do.” For Jesus, this experience has encouraged his personal interest in biology, as well as helping him with his other subjects.
Club Despertar is organized by Linda Corchado ’08 who is proud of the program’s growth over the past few years and wants to see it continue after she graduates. Lesson plans and weekly organization are largely the work of Ashley Miniet ’10, Maribel Gomez ’09, Deivid Rojas ’11, and Aakash Suchak ’11. At the moment, the club is in the midst of an application for the Pericles Fund with which they would like to create a Spanish library in Kennett Square, in the hopes that increasing Spanish literacy will encourage English literacy as well.
Corchado’s primary concern for Club Despertar at the moment is that the program’s budget, which allows for opportunities like paying for the visiting students’ Sharples meals, is at risk due to changes in SBC funding. Concerns over this arose at the club’s last SBC meeting, in which SBC members could not decide whether SBC should provide meals to the visiting students.
While the issue was ultimately resolved in favor of funding for this semester, Corchado remains worried that this is a sign of larger issues regarding SBC funding. “I’m very concerned that SBC is beginning to rethink their decision,” Corchado observes. Cutting the budget for Club Despertar and similar programs would, in Corchado’s opinion, “be a devastating move for Swarthmore. It would affect how Swarthmore is viewed by the community…. I was disheartened to see a move to stop funding.”
More positively, Corchado is optimistic about the growth of the club in terms of student involvement. “I started Club Despertar in my freshman year and I’ve seen it progress and progress…. We have at least forty students on the mailing list now and every year we have new members in the group.” Tutors range from students for whom English was a second language (like Corchado herself), Spanish learners, and students interested in issues like immigration (Kennet Square’s large Hispanic community is made up largely of Mexican immigrant laborers and their families).
Someday, Corchado hopes to see the club expand into Philadelphia, though at the moment she feels that its work with Kennett Square is strengthened by the tight-knit nature of the community there. She encourages interested students who would like to become involved in Club Despertar to contact herself or one of the planners.