Celebrate 40 Years of Immersion May 13-15

Langauge Opens the World- Sculpture at El Marino School
Langauge Opens the World- Sculpture at El Marino School

What do El Marino, El Rincon, Farragut, La Ballona and Linwood E. Howe all have in common? All of Culver City’s elementary schools were at one time home to either the Spanish or Japanese language immersion programs!

All of Culver City is invited to participate in a three-day celebration May 13-15, to commemorate the District’s bold and innovative decision 40 years ago to implement the first language immersion program in a U.S. public school district. Today, there are hundreds of dual language immersion programs across the country, but Culver City was the first. The celebration will honor 40 years of the District’s Spanish Immersion program, and 20 years of its Japanese Immersion program. The special events will include a language immersion symposium, keynote lecture on global education by Professor Yong Zhao, Children’s Day celebration, and alumni reunion. The event is sponsored by the Advocates for Language Learning El Marino (ALLEM).

In 1971, the Spanish Immersion program started with one kindergarten class at Linwood E. Howe. In 1973, it moved to El Marino, seven years later in 1980 the program was moved to La Ballona and consisted of five classes. When Betsy Ross (another Culver City elementary school that is now the private school Wildwood) closed its doors in 1983, students from Betsy Ross were sent to La Ballona and the immersion program was moved again from La Ballona to El Rincon. In 1991, the Japanese Immersion program was established at Farragut with one kindergarten class. Finally, in 1993, El Marino became a designated immersion school, housing both programs at one location.

Dr. Vera Jashni, the first principal of the Spanish Immersion program in 1971 at Linwood E. Howe, remembers, “I was very excited about the idea of teaching English-speaking children in Spanish and volunteered to get the program off the ground. Parents were excited but at the same time there was a feeling of anxiety about putting their children in the program.”

Today more than 750 students are in the dual language immersion program at El Marino and the Spanish Immersion program expanded in 2010 to La Ballona Elementary School with two kindergarten classes. Approximately 838 students are in the CCUSD’s language immersion program. Culver City has made it possible for thousands of children to experience language acquisition using primarily the dual language immersion model.

El Marino teacher Elizabeth Arguelles Mejia has a unique perspective on the program, not only as a teacher, but also as an alum of the second graduating class of the immersion program (’78).

“When I was in third grade, I knew I would become a Spanish Immersion teacher. My El Marino teachers were amazing role models who inspired me to work with children, while teaching them to be bilingual. For the past eighteen years, a childhood dream has become a reality. I can’t imagine anything I would rather be in life than a Spanish Immersion teacher in the same school where I was a student almost 40 years ago!”

The 40th Anniversary Celebration of Language Immersion in Culver City begins on Friday May 13 th with a language immersion symposium, “Looking Back, Leading the Way.” The afternoon symposium will feature panel discussions with language immersion experts and special guests. Yong Zhao, Presidential Chair and Associate Dean for Global Education, College of Education at the University of Oregon, will deliver the evening keynote address. Congresswoman Judy Chu of California’s 32 nd district is also invited to speak. Open to the public, advance registration ticket prices are $35 for the symposium and keynote address, $30 for the symposium only, and $10 for the keynote address only. Door prices are $40 for the symposium and keynote, $35 for the symposium only , and $12 for the keynote only.

El Marino Language School will host a celebration of Spanish and Japanese culture at their annual Children’s Day event. The event will feature Japanese and Spanish cuisine, dance and songs. Children’s Event takes place at 11450 Port Road, Culver City. Admission is free. Details and event times are to be announced.

The anniversary celebration will conclude on with a Culver City immersion program alumni reunion, reuniting alumni from 1971 to 2010. Alumni and their families, current program participants, as well as anyone interested in learning about the experience of an immersion education and its positive impact are encouraged to attend. Reunion events include a retrospective of the school’s programs, arts and crafts booths, and a bronze plaque re-dedication of the sculpture Language Opens the World to Us, designed by Carol Bardin and her father Milton Michaelson. The sculpture, originally dedicated in 1986, stands on the grounds of El Marino Language School. The alumni reunion will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the El Marino Language School. Admission is $5. Attendees can bring their own picnic lunches, or they can purchase ethnic food sponsored by La Ballona Elementary.

For more information on the 40th Anniversary festivities, www.allelmarino.org/40years.html


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