Jacobs students work in their Spanish

CARPENTERSVILLE – More than a half-dozen Jacobs High School students spent Wednesday morning using their Spanish language skills outside of school, interacting with Hispanic residents at the Carpentersville FISH Food Pantry.

The opportunity to use Spanish in a practical setting, without textbooks, was a first for eight students from a Jacobs' advanced Spanish class.

"Why not use their Spanish in a real-life setting?" teacher Nancy Gullickson said. "The stuff in textbooks, when they get up to the [advanced] level is not enough anymore. They have to be able to apply it in the real world, so this is one way I can do it."

Gullickson has been taking students outside the classroom to apply their skills since she started at Jacobs in the 1990s.

In the past, her students have tutored Hispanic District 300 students in math and reading, and taught basic Spanish classes at Sun City Huntley and in the Dundee Township Park District.

Gullickson said she is a major proponent of "service-learning" education, which allows students to apply classroom learning to community service. Service-learning is embedded into Jacobs' foreign language curriculum and students will be graded on their community service.

Service-learning has been under stress since the Obama administration cited economic pressures and cut off federal funding for it earlier this year. Without governmental resources, students for the first time this year have had to cover some transportation costs, Gullickson said.

Some students at the food pantry spoke with Hispanic clients as they logged food requests into computers.Others worked in the back of the pantry, processing requests and packing canned goods, produce and toiletries into carts, which were delivered to the customers waiting outside.

Ryan Downing, a senior, said he appreciated the opportunity to give back to the community. "I get to learn how to use my Spanish in the real world and not just in class, like a requirement, but more like it's a privilege to use it," he said.

The pantry serves nearly 425 low-income residents a month in the Carpentersville, and the East Dundee and West Dundee areas. Many of the pantry's patrons don't speak English as a native language, said Mary Graziano, president of the pantry.

The students infused much-needed energy into the pantry's 32 volunteers, all of whom are retired, Graziano said.

Gullickson also took students from her advanced Spanish class to the pantry last week and said more will go in the coming week.

"We absolutely love when they come in," Graziano said. "They bring a fresh eye. They teach us stuff. They're great."

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