A unique community has formed through a dual language school, where pairing up bilingual buddies builds friendships and relationships.
In Mount Vernon, the Hispanic population has tripled in the past 25 years. 34% of the population now identifies as Hispanic or Latino. The presence of Spanish-speaking families has created a huge shift in the school system.
That shift dictates that all children are taught in both English and Spanish. This dual language program is not optional. It is mandatory.
Principal of Madison Elementary School Evelyn Morse said “Because of our community and our population, dual language was starting up in a neighboring [Burlington] school district, and it just made sense.”
The program at Madison Elementary is very successful, and one of the most compelling reasons is the “Bilingual Buddies.” Students are paired with another student whose native language is different. If the family speaks English at home, the student has a bilingual buddy whose family speaks Spanish. Buddies can help in the opposite speaking class without disrupting class and asking help from the teacher.
According to Morse, “The teachers truly stay true to the language of instruction. But the kids are sitting next to a bilingual buddy, so if they’re having trouble, the buddy can whisper. So in Spanish class, the Spanish-speaking kiddos are the experts, and they can help their English partners. And in English classes, the English-speaking kids are stronger, so they can help their partners, so it’s a team.”