FHS Grad, AmeriCorps and Kid Connection

FHS Grad is Jumping In, Learning and Making a Difference
Posted on 08/18/2021
Cristian Collazo

Cristian Collazo is a 2018 Farmington High School graduate that returned to town this summer to work with students at District 192 Community Education. How did he end up back in Farmington, and why Farmington Community Education? Cristian’s mother had read about the AmeriCorps Emergency Response Initiative and encouraged Cristian to learn more.

AmeriCorps was hiring community members to assist with summer school programing focusing on academic enrichment, tutoring, and mentoring students. AmeriCorps partnered with Community Education departments across the state of Minnesota to impact children and to provide a real-life education and work experience for the people they hired.

Cristian applied, was hired and placed in the Kid Connection program at Farmington Community Education. This enriching and rewarding experience for Cristian actually started years ago and continues today.

Cristian Collazo entered Kindergarten in 2006, at Farmington Elementary School. He mostly spoke Spanish. Farmington Elementary had an English Learner program and staff in place to support a young student like Cristian. The program is still in place and their mission/purpose states this:

The purpose of the Farmington EL Program is to assist students in the development of their language skills while maintaining the integrity of their linguistic and cultural identities.  Our goal is to motivate and encourage students to feel successful and to foster a love of learning.

Cristian received support throughout his elementary education and some of his middle school years at Boeckman Middle School. He credits the caring and concerned staff as well as his parents, with his success in school.

Cristian is currently a student at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota, and will be starting his senior year this fall. Cristian is working towards a double major in Spanish and Education. Cristian hopes to teach Spanish and English and would love to experience this in other countries. He believes that the support of teachers and adult mentors are important when teaching children and youth. His experiences in Farmington and through the “Language Buddies” program at Gustavus have solidified his desire to teach. Language Buddies is a program for community engagement that develops strategic relationships for ongoing learning with Hispanic families and Gustavus students in the surrounding communities. “I spent some time at an Elementary school helping non-English speaking students with math, reading and language to learn English. I also worked with English speaking kids to help them learn Spanish through games and activities. I really enjoyed that time with them,” said Cristian.

When Cristian asked how this work experience benefitted him, he replied, “I learned a lot from the Kid Connection staff about classroom management, how to engage students and handle issues that arise. Their commitment to the kids and their hard work made every day full of fun and learning. The AmeriCorps staff and organization has that same dedication to serving kids. It was very fulfilling to spend my summer this way!”

Cristian was especially touched when he received a note from a young student just a few days after arriving at Kid Connection.

He has enjoyed preparing the maker space classrooms for STEM activities and building relationships with the children, as they worked through projects.

Cristian’s favorite activity was setting up an Obstacle Course. He included students in the planning, construction, and testing. They all worked together to create it and then to enjoy it. The students kept practicing the course and eventually held a fun and lighthearted competition. Cristian kept encouraging the kids to keep trying and practicing and will remember their tenacity and grit to master it.

Kristina Hess, Kid Connection Site Supervisor said this about Cristian, “He definitely made a difference in our program this year, engaging kids in our learning projects and social activities. His friendliness and flexibility found him drawing kids in to actively participate.”

Cristian’s assignment in Farmington is coming to an end and when asked what advice he would give other young learners, he said “Jump in and try- experience whatever it is that you want to learn, as early as you can, hands on if possible...to determine if this is something you want to pursue.  Then go for it, learn it and enjoy it.” 

More information about AmeriCorps Emergency Response Initiative:       
serveminnesota.org/emergency-response

More information about Gustavus Adolphus College Language Buddies program:               
 
Language Buddies (gustavus.edu)

More information about District 192 English Learners program and Farmington Community Education: www.farmington.k12.mn.us