Bridging the Language Gap in Richmond Public Schools
RICHMOND, Virginia − When you send off your child to school, you harbor certain expectations. You hope that your child will be safe, productive, and social. You also hope that the teacher or school will communicate with you about school events and your child’s progress.
But what if you couldn’t read the PTA newsletter or notes sent home by the teacher? What if permission slips, fliers and report cards confounded you? What if returning a teacher’s phone call or attending a parent-teacher conference seemed more like an obstacle in a fantastical quest than a normal parental task?
For the 10 percent of Richmond parents who speak a language other than English at home, these anxieties are not just hypothetical. They are a part of daily life in a metropolitan area that is challenging itself to meet the needs of immigrant families.
Over the past decade, the Hispanic immigrant population has nearly doubled across the state, while the Asian immigrant population has risen 68 percent. There are now more than 62,000 Latinos in the Richmond metropolitan area, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
More than 1,000 of them are students in Richmond Public Schools with limited English proficiency who speak primarily Spanish at home.
This year, RPS has more than 1,320 students with limited English proficiency – up from 400 a decade ago. Those students speak about 40 different languages, from Afrikaans and Arabic to Vietnamese and Yoruba. The vast majority – more than 1,050 of the students – speak Spanish.
These students are your children’s classmates and possibly their friends. Their parents are your neighbors.
At last count, RPS had 21 English as a Second Language teachers. And there’s just one full-time staff member with the express job of bridging the linguistic and cultural gap between schools and immigrant parents. That person is Barbara Ingber, the ESL parent liaison for RPS.
Outstretched Wings for the Birthplace of the United States
Dear Boston,We would've expressed our love for you sooner if it hadn't been for our website re-launch. So here's a belated quail nuzzle and a little peck, too. No city deserves the tragedies you've had to face with the recent marathon bombing and MIT shooting. But the symbolism of these attacks makes your suffering that much more tragic. You're BOSTON. You're such a beautiful place rich in American heritage and creativity. You're one of the oldest cities in the United States, steeped in Revolutionary War history, full of colleges and universities, and, golly gee, your harbor sure is *blush* pretty. We don't wish for death or violence anywhere, but we're especially sorry that all of this nastiness happened to you.We love and treasure you, Boston! Stay strong and feel free to send us photos of how your incredible city has held up.
Feathery hugs,The Quail Bell CrewP.S. We did not under any circumstances forget about the recent Virginia Tech shootings anniversary, either. How could we when most of our crew comes from the Old Dominion? We love you, too, Blacksburg.
College Muggles Battle for Glory
By Ben Oldach
Capital News Service
COLLEGE PARK, Maryland -- In the Harry Potter universe, quidditch is a game played on flying broomsticks, with young witches and wizards battling high in the air.
The version of the game that hundreds of college athletes will play at the Quidditch World Cup in Florida on Saturday will take place on the ground. Muggles, after all, can’t fly.
A field of 80 teams from Canada, France and Mexico will compete in the two-day tournament against college quidditch squads from across the United States, including Penn State, Ohio State, Boston University, Texas A&M, USC and the University of Maryland.
“Muggle quidditch” was created in 2005 by students at Middlebury College in Vermont who were looking for an alternative to bocce ball and adapted the rules of J.K. Rowling’s game for a non-magical audience.
Before long, several intramural teams were competing against each other at Middlebury. Eventually, the game spread to other colleges in the U.S. and around the world.
“We tried to inspire other colleges around the country to start their own team, and then create even larger events for all the other teams to compete in,” said Alex Benepe, the commissioner of the International Quidditch Association.
Seven years later, the International Quidditch Association now presides over the biggest tournament of the year, the Quidditch World Cup.
“I think that quidditch could easily become one of the most popular sports in the world, it has a higher entertainment value than some other well established sports, but it is going to take some time,” Benepe said.
For spectators, the entertainment value is indeed high. It’s a full-contact, co-ed sport, an odd mashup of rugby, dodgeball, hide-and-seek, basketball and soccer. Players tackle each other, without protective padding.
And it requires the seven players on each side to run, awkwardly, with a broom between their legs to simulate flying.
The same positions from the novel exist in the muggle game. “Chasers” throw a slightly deflated volleyball, the “quaffle,” through one of three hoops defended by a “keeper” to score points. They must dodge “bludgers” (rubber kickballs) thrown by “beaters” attempting to knock them from their brooms.
And two “seekers” from opposing teams compete to catch the “snitch.” In the books, the snitch is a magical golden-winged orb that darts around unpredictably. In the muggle game, the snitch is a person dressed in yellow. The game ends when a seeker grabs a tennis ball attached to the snitch’s pants.
Within the next five years, the association hopes to establish a true world cup, where national teams made up of the best players battle it out.
“We really want to expand the audience of the game,” said Logan Anbinder, director of marketing for the International Quidditch Association. “They think Harry Potter, they think nerds, they have connotations of people running around on brooms, but it’s a real sport.”
By QB History Buff
With online shopping becoming an ever-popular option in mainstream society (and not just with cybergeeks), it's no surprise that malls are seeing a decline in business. Admit it, you hit up Amazon.com more often than your local bookstore or Etsy.com more often than your local craft fairs.
You might sometimes wonder what these retail mammoths looked like in their heyday. You know, back when malls were THE place to see and be seen. Central Virginians, for example, may be familiar with Southside Plaza on Richmond's Hull Street corridor. In the 1960s, Southside Plaza was a hustling-bustling sort of place. Just look at all those cars!
Psst...Want to see it return to its mighty, chest-pounding state? Haul your tail feathers over to the Hull Street Road Corridor Revitalization meeting taking place tonight. It's the last one where the general public can comment on the grant-funded Hull Street 360 project.
Democrats Rap Cuccinelli Over Federal Law
By Whitney Spicer
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Virginia Democrats slammed state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on Tuesday for refusing to support reauthorization of the federal Violence Against Women Act.
In a telephone press conference, Delegate Jennifer McClellan of Richmond and Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos criticized Cuccinelli for being one of three state attorneys general who did not sign a letter urging Congress to reauthorize the act.
“Virginians deserve to know what prevented Ken Cuccinelli from sticking up for the Violence Against Women Act, not a half-hearted excuse for sitting on his hands while Republicans killed the reauthorization,” McClellan said.
“As attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli is the chief law enforcement office in the Commonwealth, charged with doing whatever it takes to keep all Virginia safe from those who would do them harm.
“In light of that responsibility, and his desire to be our next governor, Virginians deserve to hear a real explanation from him as to why he would refuse to support the Violence Against Women Act.”
Cuccinelli’s spokesman said there is a simple explanation: By policy, the attorney general’s office does not sign letters of support for federal legislation that is still subject to amendment.
“It is beyond comprehension how anyone could seriously try to blame a single state attorney general because 535 members of the U.S. Congress didn’t pass a piece of legislation,” said Brian Gottstein, the attorney general’s director of communication.
He noted that Cuccinelli supports many programs against domestic abuse. For example, the attorney general operates the Address Confidentiality Program, a mail-forwarding service that keeps the addresses of domestic violence victims confidential. Cuccinelli’s office also collects cellphones to donate to Verizon Wireless’ HopeLine Program for victims in protective shelters.
In an interview, political commentator Bob Holsworth said he believes Democrats are attacking Cuccinelli on this issue to paint him in a bad light in this year’s gubernatorial race.
“The Democrats are trying to position Cuccinelli as someone out of touch with the mainstream. Using social issues like this is a great way to do that,” said Holsworth, the founding director of the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.
During the conference call, Stamos, who has been a prosecutor in Arlington County and Falls Church for more than two decades, said the Violence Against Women Act has helped law enforcement officials.
“The act has helped people in our office to deal with the very specific and specialized needs of domestic violence victims. It has provided the training and tools that we need at the local level to prosecute very difficult cases,” Stamos said.
Since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has provided funding for rape crisis centers and hotlines and assistance for women who have escaped domestic abuse.
“It is a piece of federal legislation that works in the trenches at the local level,” Stamos said.
Capital News Service is a flagship program of the VCU School of Mass Communications. Students participating in the program provide state government coverage for Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets, under the supervision of Associate Professor Jeff South.
Guadalajara in 35mm
By Christine Stoddard
Give someone a camera and they'll give you memories—tangible ones that you can develop and print and keep for as long as the paper keeps. The children of Villas Miravalle, a shelter for sexually abused minors in Guadalajara, Mexico, gave us a set of memories. Meanwhile, we hope that we gave them a sense of empowerment. Clicking a camera takes strength. It means intentionally acknowledging a certain visible truth for posterity.
We were a dozen Virginia Commonwealth University students, half of us studying Spanish interpretation and half studying public health for a couple of weeks during the summer of 2012. At the last minute before our planned visit to Villas Miravalle, I thought to bring the children disposable cameras to play with. So a couple of my classmates and I scrambled to find the cameras at drug stores and supermarkets. We eventually scrounged up ten of them.
If only we had had three or four times as many cameras. Though shy at first, more and more children emerged from their rooms to join our group in the courtyard. We started out with exactly eight little girls. At some point, I lost count of how many children were clamoring for cameras, so I asked the children to take a picture and pass the camera to someone who had not yet had a turn.
We ended up having less time than any of us had expected. When dark clouds eeked out warm rain, we collected the cameras in a frenzy. With monsoon season in full swing, flash floods were not just a hypothetical occurrence. Some of the children pouted and whined about our sudden flight, while others rushed toward us with hugs. Though only little more than an hour had passed, it was time for us to leave.
The children would stay behind—but we had proof that the encounter had happened. Almost 270 photographs worth of proof, I later discovered at a pharmacy in Richmond, Virginia. The children had used up every picture on every camera and most of the images were fully-formed. There were thumbs and blurs, sure, yet there was also thought and feeling in each picture. These are the ten photos I chose from those 270.
This exhibition was made possible thanks to Virginia Commonwealth University - Global Education, University of Guadalajara, and Virginia Center for Latin American Art.
As I walked through the gates to visit the children of Villas Miravalle, I felt a patchwork of emotion. I was excited to see the kids again, but I felt a sense of abandonment, as I had returned to the United States to complete my professional degrees leaving behind the kids who I have always considered family. I think my heart froze when I saw one of the little girls again. Her 3-year-old face will always be embedded in my memory. Now she is 7, and quickly growing up.
A group of boys yelled out to me as they always had, as I would arrive to the Villas. “¡Maestra! ¡Maestra!” When I saw them, I barely recognized them as the skinny 13-year-old kids I had taught to garden and brought out on excursions around Guadalajara. They were adults now, but once our eyes connected I immediately remembered our trips to the wax museum and the guards chasing us out of the department store while riding the escalator for the first time. I will be forever grateful that they let me into their hearts and shared with me the stories of the lives they had before arriving to Villas Miravalle. These kids have experienced horrors that no human should ever have to face. These are the kids that changed my life and have molded me into who I am today.
-Lynn VanderWielen, the VCU PhD student who coordinated the visit to Villas Miravalle. She taught English at the shelter after completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin.
I remember arriving at the shelter not exactly sure what to expect. Many children and adolescents gathered around and started hugging and holding hands with our students, seeking approval, comfort and love. Our students just hugged back, began playing games with the boys, teaching girls how to take photographs, started a basketball game. Others toured the garden and saw the pool where children had to share towels because there weren’t enough for all. We wanted to stay longer but the sky got black and a bad storm which would leave us stranded was imminent. The children didn’t want us to leave and I believe we all left frustrated that we could not stay longer, felt we had done so little for them, yet had made them feel happy for a little while. The compassion of our own students was an eye opener for me.
-Patricia Michelsen-King, program co-director, Spanish & Cultural Competence for Health & Human Services
Today we went to a shelter for children who have been victims of sexual violence, either through families, communities or through prostitution. I had imagined a small dark place that was dilapidated and miserable. What we found was a big green campus with a simple pool, jungle gym, basketball court, fantastic staff, and children who are on their way to healing. This isn't to say that all is well. In fact, the director gave us a laundry list of things they need badly and challenges they have in the face of so much trauma and poverty. Nevertheless, it didn't take long for us to feel welcome and start interacting with the kids who were happy to see us. In fact, we had to leave quickly because of the storm that would possibly flood us out. Our students were very hesitant to leave. I hope that as a group, we can find some way to continue our support for this magical place. We owe Lynn VanderWielen a big thanks for sharing her special space with us!
-Cecily Rodriguez, program co-director, Spanish & Cultural Competence for Health & Human Services. This statement was edited from her original post to the program's Facebook group.
Editor's Note: "Guadalajara in 35mm" is currently on display at the Virginia Center of Latin American Art. The show will tour the state on VACLAA's art bus and later be put on permanent display at Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Guadalajara, and Villas Miravalle.
Support the cause! And make the exhibit part of your home forever by ordering the accompanying booklet. The booklet is beautifully printed in full-color on high-quality cardstock. Enjoy the children's photographs and participants' words in a larger format spread across 16 memorable pages. 10% of your purchase of the "Guadalajara in 16mm" booklet will benefit the Virginia Center for Latin American Art.
Let's see what the Aggre-gator's burped up...
By QB Aggre-gator
Quail Bell's Aggre-gator, Gerald, has burped up the following links from November and December 2012. He wants to keep you abreast of global news and views that are imaginary, nostalgic, and otherworldly:
Restaurateur? Try Restaurateuse.
By Christine Stoddard
Photo taken by Style Weekly for Deveron Timberlake's story.
Imagine owning three booming businesses, marrying an ex-male model, and giving birth to a healthy baby boy—all by age 23. That's the accomplished life of the young and ambitious Thai-American, Holy Yang (pronounced Holly.)
“Instead of switching majors, I switch business ventures,” Holy quips of her entrepreneurial whims. Not to call herself fickle, but Holy's business ventures are varied.
Two years ago, Holy opened Made in Asia, an upscale Thai and Pan Asian joint in Chesterfield, Virginia that brings urban cool to suburbia. Since then, the full-service restaurant, bar and sushi bar has held benefit nights, hosted concerts and even sponsored a Mrs. Virginia contestant. Take-out and catering services bring the swanky Made in Asia dining experience to the home or office, too.
In 2011, Richmond Magazine named Made in Asia the city’s “Best New Restaurant.” At that point, Made in Asia had been open to the public a matter of mere months. Holy didn’t miss a beat.
Following Made in Asia’s instant success, Holy jumpstarted her marketing company, Yang Business Services, a firm that designs branding and promotional strategies for Richmond companies. Unsurprisingly, many of Holy’s clients are restaurants, especially the developing and recently established. Perhaps Holy’s most notable client is Bobalicious, the Virginia franchise specializing in frozen yogurt and boba drinks.
We'll be back...
Please pardon our hiatus. We've been MIA for a bit because of some thrilling news: We recently received our first book deal! And did we mention that our Executive Editor Christine Stoddard is in the process of moving? And that we're prepping for our next print issue? As always, we have an exciting line-up for the season. Wish us luck as we prep for 2013. If our first year was awesome, imagine how much better our second's going to be. We love you lots and hope you have an historic holiday bonanza!
The Quail Bell Crew
Portals, a book of 50 intimate, magical collages
Naturally, the holiday season means giving. It also means feeling overwhelmed. Well, we don't want you to feel overwhelmed about giving! Looking for a cause? Help Papercut Press, an independent publisher based in Brooklyn, print Delilah Jones' book of collages, Portal. Papercut makes beautiful books and Delilah Jones makes beautiful collages. Need another reason? 10% of all proceeds benefit NYC relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy. Besides, they're so close to their goal. Only $103 left to go!And if you're not in the financial position to make a donation, please spread the word! Any help is appreciated! Thank you!Feathery hugs,
The Quail Bell CrewP.S. And if you're feeling particularly generous, help Quail Bell Magazine achieve 501c3 status!