Activa Tu Speaking

Berea High School students interact with students from Guadalajara, Mexico online. Two students from each school will participate in an exchange program in March.
Image Credit: Margaret Warner

A partnership between Berea High School in Greenville, South Carolin,a and Preparatoria 19, a school in Guadalajara, Mexico, will send two students and one teacher from each school to visit the other for one week starting March 19. The Preparatoria 19 group will observe educational settings and engage in learning activities at Berea High School, Clemson University’s Eugene T. Moore School of Education, and the surrounding area throughout the week.

The visits are an extension of “Activa Tu Speaking,” a program established between Berea High School and Preparatoria 19 that allows students to communicate face to face online. Margaret Warner, adjunct faculty in the School of Education’s Department of Education and Human Development, serves as the program’s director, and she said the power of the travel experience for both sets of students can’t be overstated.

“’Activa Tu Speaking’ has proven to be a beneficial program for both schools,” Warner said, “but being able to experience life in different class environments and in a research setting will truly open these students’ eyes to a different cultural experience.”

The first two days of Preparatoria 19’s student experience will involve an orientation to the high school community, attendance in class and completion of course work. The group will spend two days at Clemson University to attend classes. Clemson will also hold a reception that will allow students to meet with campus administrators, faculty and students. Planners have also allotted time for visits to Falls Park and Liberty Bridge to in downtown Greenville.

Warner said this extension of the “Activa Tu Speaking” program was made possible by funding from the Eugene T. Moore School of Education and support of its dean, George Petersen, and associate dean of academic affairs and research, Dave Barrett. This support was matched by the Office of the U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara and the U.S. Department of State.

“This was not a planned part of the program, so to be able to accomplish something this logistically difficult in the first year is great for the program,” Warner said. “Everyone involved on both sides has put the benefit of the students first.”

According to Warner, the program is the “brain child” of Sandra Jara-Castro, program director of Preparatoria 19. Jara-Castro and Warner previously met when Jara-Castro studied at Clemson University as an International Leader in Education Fellow. During this time, Jara-Castro and Warner discussed the program that would become “Activa Tu Speaking.” Upon her return to Guadalajara, Jara-Castro reached out to her school administrators and the U.S. Consulate General to establish a program that would link both cultures.

Warner and Jara-Castro paired the schools due to their similar economic backgrounds and parental levels of education. Because of a high level of diversity at Berea High School, the high school’s administrators are also supportive of programs like “Activa Tu Speaking” that encourage cultural education.

“The program has helped students on both sides with their conversational abilities,” Warner said, “but the students making this trip will be totally immersed in another culture, and that will enhance not only their abilities with a language but their understanding of a global society.”

Two Berea High School students will accompany Spanish teacher Krista McCree to Guadalajara on March 31 to visit Preparatoria 19 and the main campuses of the University of Guadalajara. Students will also visit historical centers, museums and the American Consulate. The U.S. group will return on April 6.

The “Activa Tu Speaking” student exchange program is made possible by the International and Research Exchanges Board, the United States Department of State and the U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.