CCACK begins: Students skype Colombian kids at Orth school
Borrowing part of its name from the existing mentoring program, Colby Cares About Kids (CCAK), the new initiative known as Colby Cares About Colombia’s Kids (CCACK) encourages students on the Hill to improve children’s lives in South America.
“[It is a] student-operated cultural exchange pen pal program, only over Skype,” Hillary Sapanski ’13, a member of the CCACK program, said. Every week, the members of CCACK set up a Skype session with third, fourth or fifth grade students at Colombia’s Marina Orth School. Three or four students from the College video-chat with the kids and give them a chance to practice their English skills with native speakers. The idea for CCACK was born last year when Maureen Orth, an American journalist, visited the College to speak with students about her work. Orth spoke to Sapanski’s Latin American economics class about building the Marina Orth School in Medellín, Colombia—Colombia’s first bilingual school—when she was a Peace Corps volunteer from 1964-66.
Orth had Sapanski’s class video-chat with some students from the Colombian school. After this experience, six students on the Hill came together and decided to video-chat students at the Marina Orth School on a regular basis. Orth, who is still very involved with the Colombian school, assisted the students from the Hill in getting in touch with a teacher at the Marina Orth School, who helped get the program started. CCACK’s goal is to give the kids a chance to talk with native English speakers. “It’s so hard to learn a new language,” Sapanski said. “But it always helps to speak with someone who really knows that language.” Some members of CCACK have actually taught entire English classes to the kids over Skype. In Colombia, the computer sat at the front of the room, and the children learned from their American teachers, thousands of miles away.
CCACK officially began last spring, and, since the Colombian children still have class during the summer, a few members of CCACK made an effort at the end of the academic year to skype the children whenever they had time. Today, the program consists of 10 students on the Hill working together, and Sapanski hopes it will continue to grow. “Everyone involved is supportive of the program,” Sapanski said. “The kids are my favorite part. Sometimes they’re insane, so we can’t talk to too many kids at once…but they are always just so excited to talk to us, and that makes them eager to learn and [makes] the program successful.”
While CCACK is still in its early stages as a pilot program, Sapanski is already looking toward the future. CCACK could one day become a part of the College language curriculum, as a class requirement, or something students can complete for extra credit. Sapanski also talked about plans to expand from talking to just elementary school kids to talking with high schoolers, a group that has already expressed an interest in video-chatting with the students on the Hill. “This program has lots of potential,” Sapanski said. “I’ve heard talk of expanding to other Latin American countries like Ecuador and Peru. There are lots of places this program can go.”