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Creating a non–traditional bilingual school for high-risk students

By Gabriel Pilonieta-Blanco
El Tiempo Hispano

The initiative to launch a bilingual Charter School in the city of Wilmington, Delaware is booming.

DELAWARE — For many years, to have a bilingual school has been the dream of María Matos, Executive Director of the Centro Comunitario Latinoamericano, and all those who know her, know that when Matos dreams, she does it in big style and usually accomplishes it.

To know a little more about the new charter school plans, we talked with José Castro, brother of the unforgettable educator Antonia Alonso (whose name the school will bear), with her daughter María Teresa Alonso, a psychologist with extensive experience in education, and with María Matos in her office in the Latino Center.

“It’s all about putting into practice the education model of learning by doing,” explains María Alonso, “Something we had already implemented years ago in the Jardín Español (a private project) with very good results. Based on the development of a project, the child learns through all his/her senses, through his/her own active experience. A topic is chosen, such as the forest or the water, and the theme is then developed based on experiences, that are finally captured in a written or visual project.”

The need for a school that serves Hispanic children in Wilmington is seen by María Matos as something urgent. “We work with children from an early age and we realize that when they enter the conventional education system, they lose their skills, and I think that with a more creative, more open model, we can give our children a better chance.”

The organizers of the school want it to have at least 50% of Hispanic students, who are those with fewer op- portunities. “The model that we want to apply is designed for high-risk students, and these are the Hispanic children, they are at risk of not learning anything from the traditional system”, Matos said.

After all, it is about opening a door to creativity in the teaching of Hispanic children of Delaware, and for this purpose they have started negotiations with the Longwood Foundation, who are the beneficiaries of a donation of a Bank of America building located in French and 12th Street.

This is the ideal place because it is ready to host a charter school, since it is there where they are going to run several charter schools for about 2,000 children.

If everything goes well, in October they will have a definitive answer from the Longwood Foundation, which by the way would be in charge of preparing the premises for the school, so that the charter (school) Tony Alonso, would open its doors in September 2013. Mr. José explains the family feels honored knowing that the memory of their sister Antonia will be preserved in this school that meets her biggest dream, which was none other than the education of our kids.

Her motto was: “education will set you free” and she planted it in her daughters and in everybody around her. To finish, María Matos asserts that this is the right time for this charter school. In fact, we will now train our teachers so that they receive the same model of education that will be provided in the charter school, developing critical thinking, allowing us to be the first country in the world. To develop an education with a social conscience in this global world.

For that we have the support of Innovative Schools of Delaware, which is an organization dedicated to support charter schools and to train their teachers with the backup of the Rodel Foundation. They have also developed a partnership with Teaching For America.

We can say that they already started looking for the principal of this beautiful project and the teachers who want to be part of its academic staff, as well as organizing meetings with the community to reveal the details of this project.

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