Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, and celebration that typically involves cerveza, chips, salt-rimmed glasses of margaritas and much jubilation.
¡Vamonos NOLA!, a Spanish language program celebrates all Latin holidays equally. They offer play-based language learning programming, which includes camps, classes and tutoring. At its summer camp, which starts May 20, each week features a different country’s culture.
“We teach the campers about the different dances, songs and food for each country,” says Nancy Doll, co-founder of the organization.
The organization started in 2014, when Nancy Doll and Kyrstie Schultz wanted to start a bilingual program that had the same qualities they looked for in programming for their own children. They wanted small groups, personal attention, loving teachers, communication and a healthy, safe and accepting environment. ¡Vamonos NOLA! Now provides Spanish classes to infants, kids and adults.
“We believe that becoming bilingual is a critical part of being the leaders of tomorrow,” says Schultz. “Language is always in the background as we help children learn about different cultures and make healthy choices.”
Vamonos NOLA’s summer camp programming, for ages 5-10 years old, is geared to all kinds of learners and includes activities such as arts and crafts, theater, soccer, yoga, music, Capoeira, leadership skills, gardening and so much more.
Along with these energy-burning activities, Vamonos NOLA’s camp teaches campers about making healthy choices by providing minimally-processed, nutrient dense foods for snacks.
“Campers learn about the importance of food as fuel for their bodies,” says Doll, who is a Spanish International Cooking instructor. “The children also help with the preparation of the snack. My favorite part of the day is after lunch when campers share their thoughts in Spanish. We even Facetime with their parents.”
Schultz says some of the students are actually learning three languages, as during the school year they attend French immersion schools.
Schultz brings 20 years of experience as a classroom teacher, program coordinator and Teach For America managing director to the program. And Doll, who moved to New Orleans from Argentina in 1997, has shared her culinary and language skills with students all around the city.
Not only do the women operate a summer camp, but they also work in dozens of New Orleans area schools and afterschool programs.
“At some of the schools, we work with Early Head Start and we help all the learners,” Schultz says. “Though our focus is helping those children whose native tongue is Spanish make the transition to English, we quickly realized we were also helping the English-speaking children because they were picking up Spanish along the way.”
The staff at Vamonos NOLA are fluent and are each supported by a mentor teacher and/or volunteer.
“Our proven, play-based curriculum is empowering and makes language accessible to all language levels,” says Schultz. “At Vamonos NOLA campers will have so much fun, they won’t even know they’re learning Spanish.”
5818 Perrier St.