Reflections on JumpStart Buena Vista/ Canas Dulces

The third week of JumpStart is almost over, I can’t believe how fast it has gone!  This time next week Jessica and I will be watching our twenty-three students graduate.  Today we played “the ball game”; a game where we stand in a circle, tossing a ball, and asking questions to one another in English.  It’s a review game, one that Jessica and I have been using since the very first day, and I have to say, it felt a little nostalgic playing today and see how far our students have come in three short weeks.  

“The ball game” was the very first game we played on the very first day of JumpStart, we used it like an icebreaker, asking the students “What is your name?”  We have students from two elementary schools all of whom (except one) will be attending high school together next month and we had high hopes of our students forming lasting friendships over the course of our camp.  The first day proved to be even more awkward than expected, imagine 23 twelve-year-olds standing in a circle with strangers talking in a foreign language.  There was a lot of whispering, a lot of dodging the ball instead of catching it, a lot of uncomfortable giggling.  Jessica and I worried that we wouldn’t have enough energy to keep this camp moving forward for a whole month.  “Wake up guys!  This is supposed to be fun,” we begged.

Today had a much different feel to it.  The students spoke loudly and with confidence, we gave them the freedom to ask any question that we’ve learned, anything from “what is your name?” and “where are you from?” to “what is your favorite color?” and “do you like pancakes?”  Their cooperation was incredible!  Some of them even came up with new questions using the vocabulary that we had learned to challenge their peers!  Buena Vista students passed the ball to their Canas Dulces peers and vice versa.  The shyness that Jessica and I observed on day one has disappeared and replaced itself with a whole new problem—getting them to stop talking, sometimes we can’t get a word in edgewise.  

This camp has taught the students (not to mention Jessica and I) what can be achieved when high expectations are set.  These students are speaking with more confidence and better pronunciation, they’ve learned a lot and formed new friendships.  I hope that these students will become leaders within seventh grade and their growth will have a positive influence on their peers.  Jessica is planning to continue working with seventh grade next year and we’re excited to watch them grow and progress over the next two years.  

-Ashley, Peace Corps Volunteer in Buena Vista