Helping students connect to Hispanic children

eye on harford

November 16, 2008|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Jean Buttitta wanted to find a way to have students in her Spanish classes at Fallston High School connect with children in a Spanish-speaking country.

The answer came to her when she heard on the radio that Cal Ripken Jr. and Dennis Martinez were visiting Nicaragua to teach baseball to about 500 children and 100 coaches.

She contacted the State Department to get details, and then she and more than 300 Fallston High students started a collection of school supplies that will be delivered by Ripken and Martinez during their trip.

"I thought that doing a project like this would give the children an opportunity to help other children who are less fortunate than they are," said Buttitta.

For the past two weeks, the students have collected and donated school supplies and money that was used to purchase spiral notebooks, spiral composition books, pens, pencils, and erasers. The supplies and personalized cards written in Spanish by Buttitta's students were stuffed into the largest duffel bag that Buttitta could find, she said. Then it was dropped off for Ripken to deliver.

To help the children realize the difference that the supplies could make for children in Nicaragua, Buttitta used facts and figures, she said. The kids knew more than she expected.

"Kids are more aware of what's going on than my generation at their age," she said.

Lindsay Garnett was amazed at the things she learned.

"Only about 28 percent of the children of Nicaragua finish the sixth grade," said Lindsay, 16, of Forest Hill. "The average family makes about $1,000 a year. If we send them $5, it's a really big deal."

Beyond learning about the children in Nicaragua, Lindsay has learned to appreciate what she has, she said.

"Sometimes we don't realize how much we have," she said. "We can be so self-centered at times. These kids survive with nothing."

Tony Romagnoli, 16, of Bel Air agreed.

"I want to do whatever I can to benefit kids who want to learn but don't get the chance," Tony said.

In addition to donating school supplies, Buttitta plans to have her students participate in a pen pal program with the Nicaraguan children, she said.

"A lot of people make donations of supplies and things, but we want to establish a lasting connection," she said.

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