Cornell faculty, visiting fellows, graduate students and Ithaca community members are exposing Ithaca-area K-12 students to languages and cultures in hopes of stimulating students’ interest in studying foreign languages – including Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Mandarin, Korean, Macedonian, Burmese, Tagalog, Tibetan, Polish, Turkish, Armenian and Swahili.
The volunteers work through Cornell’s community outreach program CERIS (Cornell Educational Resources for International Studies), a collaboration of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and Area Studies Programs. The program, which seeks to internationalize U.S. students’ education in community centers and schools in the Ithaca area, includes language instruction classes and cultural immersion activities in art, music, math, drawing and cooking.
The language teachers are for the most part native speakers of the language they teach, and most have K-12 teaching experience. One such teacher, Harutyun Gevorgyan, heads information and research programs at the Armenian National Agrarian University, where he’s also a lecturer. This year, as a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow at Cornell, Gevorgyan teaches Armenian to about 20 elementary school students at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center.
“As a lecturer in Armenia, I became very interested in volunteering for the CERIS language program to share my culture and language,” Gevorgyan says. “I focus on engaging my students in reading, writing and speaking Armenian vocabulary words, and I have also incorporated cultural experience into the classroom.
“We have picture-drawing contests, and I give Armenian sweets as prizes. I use games such as bingo to reinforce vocabulary, tell Armenian fairytales, and teach how to cook Armenian desserts, such as alani, which is made by stuffing peaches with walnuts, sugar and butter.”
As a Humphrey fellow, Gevorgyan looks for projects for future collaboration between Cornell and his home institution. Gevorgyan says he hopes he is expanding the worldview of his students beyond Ithaca and inspiring them to explore cultures and languages. CERIS is working to expand and internationalize the education that American students are receiving.
The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program provides a year of professional enrichment in the United States for experienced midcareer professionals from developing countries. Fellows are selected based on their potential for leadership and their commitment to public service in either the public or private sector.
Amanda Ward is a graduate student assistant at the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.