Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Conquistadors Connect 2015: Madrileños & Clearwater teens learn the power of CONNECTIONS

"When people come into your life, you have no idea how they will change it. These people have changed my life so much within these short two weeks. They will never know how much they meant to me. They showed me how to appreciate the small moments in life. They helped me transform as a person, and they taught me about many things I did not know (especially more Spanish). I hope to see everyone again and share memories with them. The memories that we have made these two weeks will stick with me for my whole life. I wish everyone luck as they continue their journey in life. This is not goodbye for us but it is see you later. Hasta luego mi familia!"
~from 13-year-old Florida participant as posted on her social media account

The name of this experience, “Conquistadors Connect,” was inspired by the Spanish conquistadors of old who came to the New World to explore, discover and learn. In the same fashion, my colleague Jennifer and I designed a program in which the Spanish students came and explored Florida history, technology and marine science, and furthermore, “conquered” the English language and culture, as well as gained knowledge in the particular disciplines through this exclusive and profound experience. It was our desire to see these young people thrive in our increasingly interconnected world by displaying measurable 21st Century student global competencies (understanding, investigating, connecting, and integrating). 

We also suspected that the Clearwater teens would benefit just as much from this interactive experience. To our delight, the Clearwater teens who hosted these Madrid students as siblings and friends formed strong bonds of friendship. Unlike typical travel programs where participants act as mere observers, this group of students was given the authentic opportunity to become successful “networked persons.”  Alongside their global partners, they lay the foundation to be open-minded and respectful citizens of the world. They became active, compassionate and lifelong learners, well-equipped with 21st Century skills to learn from and interact with their connected world in responsible ways.

Even more incredible is that this experience is an extension of a global project that began in January of 2014 between four World Languages classrooms. Contextualized learning, exploration of self and new ideas, and leaving the "comfort zone" helped these students to better prepare for life in their impending workforce-future.

I would like to extend a very special GRACIAS to all our family, friends and supporters who believe in the power of connections! Huge thanks to:
Colegio Decroly, Inés Guillorme, Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center, Matt Spoor, the Belleair Recreation Department, Kevin & Nicole Piccarreto, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Pablo Otalvaro, Adventure Blue (Daniel Vukelich, David Vukelich), Ciccio's/Water restaurant, Susan Bucci, Regions Bank, Raymond Villanueva, Panera Bread, Vikki Kaiser, Sail Honeymoon Inc. and Employee Leasing Strategies

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