Project aWEARness Q&A with Amy Conroy - Founder of the Dandelion Project
Our Giving Program - Project aWEARness - is the guiding force behind our brand. It’s an easy way for Little Activists and their families and friends to support causes that are close to their hearts. Our “turn key” model is easy and effective. In just three steps, you’ll be on your way to fashionable fundraising!
We recently interviewed Amy Conroy, Founder & Executive Producer of Habla Blah Blah, and our current Project aWEARness beneficiary for the non profit arm of Habla Blah Blah's Dandelion Project.
Q: How did you first get involved with Habla Blah Blah?
A: I started it! When I had my first child, I left my life as a Central American Archaeologist, but wanted to hold on to some part of it… the language. We lived, at the time, in a community with many Spanish speakers, but I couldn’t find a “Spanish playgroup” or any way to teach my one year old who was just forming his first words. So I sang to him. I made up songs for him. They were silly and SUPER repetitive, but he repeated after me, and it was delightful! So I like to thank/blame Jack for encouraging this passion of mine :) He is now 13 years old, a native English speaker, fluent in Spanish, and beginning student of Mandarin Chinese. (pictured above: Amy and her fun-loving family, photo credit: farhadparsa.com)
Q: What was the inspiration behind the Dandelion Project?
A: After returning home to Los Angeles from living in Mexico for roughly a year with my young school aged children, I was obsessed with elementary students learning another language in American schools as I had witnessed in Mexican schools. It was a given, even in poor schools in Mexico, that children learn English as a second language. I could see the benefits. I had witnessed them and was watching my own children benefit with their freshly earned bilingual skills. We re-enrolled at Citizens of the World Charter School in Hollywood, and I thought that if you were a true citizen of the world, intellectually, socially, and emotionally, wouldn’t you want to communicate with other citizens of the world? I lobbied the Principal tirelessly, and we were thrilled to establish a Spanish program that eventually spread to their other Los Angeles campus’ as well: Silverlake and MarVista. I’m realizing that we need to start lobbying CWC schools in other parts of the country, too!
Q: Why do you feel second language instruction for all children is so important?
A: Boy, we could spend an entire weekend talking about this! But the long and short is that I think second language instruction is good for the developing brain of any child. The stimulation that it provides helps to create more neural connections, pathways in the brain. This affects a child’s ability to communicate verbally in another language, which simultaneously leads to the development of greater empathy for others. There is no downside and the upsides are huge as it affects creativity, math skills, computer programming, higher executive functioning, etc., etc.! This is not to mention how fun it is to communicate in another language, like a “secret code language”.
Q: What has surprised you most about working with the Dandelion Project?
A: How hard it is! While second language instruction seems like a no-brainer to me, I am continually surprised by how many people I need to convince of the benefits! It is very hard to navigate the bureaucracy of school districts and make change. The schools have a lot of pressure to stick to their agenda and perform according to standards. I wish this were a national priority, so that principals and teachers had more support in providing this very needed global skill to our youngest students.
Q: What do you wish other people knew about the Dandelion Project?
A: I wish more people knew about it! I wish more people demanded second language instruction for their children in schools. I wish second language was considered one of the core subjects. Around the world, we are one of the few countries that does not teach an additional language in elementary schools, while some countries graduate students who are fluent in at least three languages. There is an age-old bad joke: What do you call a person who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call a person who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call a person who speaks one language? American. We can change that.
Q: How will the money raised from your Project aWEARness fundraiser be spent?
A: This money will be spent in the form of teacher stipends. In California, our bilingual teachers are not paid sufficiently for their skills, though they are required to have many skill sets! Often, these are not full-time positions, so they must “moonlight” in other jobs to pay the bills and rent. Eventually, many teachers leave their part-time teaching positions for more lucrative pay elsewhere. This money will be offered as a grant stipend to bilingual teacher(s) who demonstrate excellence in teaching and commitment to future years at the same program. One of our biggest problems in this field is good teacher retention.
Want to support this Project aWEARness fundraiser? Click HERE!