Located at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Paw Paw, La Escuela Familiar is a Saturday school starting in the fall of 2018. Focused on maintaining Spanish from a young age and building from basic interpersonal communication skills to cognitive academic language proficiency (Baker, 2006), all classes and conversation at La Escuela Familiar will be in Spanish. Through the development of the family’s primary language, we can support Spanish–speaking students in becoming fully bilingual and biliterate. Research studies have shown that along with helping students become more creative and better able to overcome challenges, bilingual children who are literate in both languages perform better on achievement tests.
In 2016, Holy Family Healthcare reached out to a family, who even though they desired a Catholic education for their children, was unable to afford it. Dr. Don Bouchard, President and Chief Medical Officer, made arrangements to pay for the children’s education operating on the Catholic Church’s tenant of preferential treatment for the poor. From this beginning, Holy Family Healthcare now implements St. Benedict’s Bridge which helps families navigate the educational system and gain access to the educational placement of their choice.
In the process, we began to see children, from homes where Spanish is the primary language, who began to fall behind in first and second grade. Research led us to believe that if we could find a way to support families in their primary language, student achievement would improve in English, the second language. Our journey to open La escuela familiar had begun.
Each of us stands on the shoulders of those who come before us. We at La escuela familiar stand on the shoulders of giants.
La escuela familiar openly and gratefully acknowledges indebtedness to Teresa Satterfield, Ph.D. and Jose R. Benki, Ph.D. of En Nuestra Lengua in Ann Arbor Michigan. They have been doing this work since 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. En Nuestra Lengua is a beacon of hope for what can be for the Latino families of West Michigan.
Likewise, we are grateful to the Latino Enrollment Institute at Notre Dame University for sharing their mission and passion for making our Catholic schools places where all students can be accepted, safe and grow in faith and knowledge.
Finally, to Dr. Don and Theresa Bouchard who have given all they have to build, not just a medical practice but a place where we can join together to serve others in mind, body, and soul.