As the year ends, the team and I are thankful for the continued support of Olas throughout the past year and a half. 2021 has been another tough year in a lot of respects for students, educators, and Olas moms. However, from what I’ve had the gift of witnessing, it has also been a year of strengthened hope. I want to take some time to reflect on the milestones that make our team hopeful as we walk into 2022.
This winter marks Olas’ second ever semester of in-classroom partnerships. We’ve learned and grown a lot since last spring! I would like to say a resounding thank you to our partners for keeping the conversation going. Here are a couple of special highlights from our partners at University of Richmond and Westridge Academy. We love watching the success stories unfold! When I get the chance to talk with students before their sessions begin I'm reminded how daunting it is to start really speaking the language you're learning. This is especially true in the US where we’ve built up the kind of perfectionist culture around education that is anathema to genuine learning in such a relational and dynamic discipline as language learning. It’s gratifying to hear students getting comfortable being uncomfortable, and growing to see errors as part of the learning process rather than evidence of failure. It’s also deeply heartening to see students become invested not only in immersive learning, but also in the mission of Olas itself. Westridge students, for example, have developed plans for a technology drive. Thanks to them, hopefully I’ll have a couple more phones and laptops in my backpack when I return to Guatemala in the spring! Our Club Chapters have also soared to new heights this year: there are now 40 student-run club Olas chapters across the US–and thanks to our chapter in Sri Lanka, across the globe. All of the chapters are doing big things! Club Olas at the University of Florida for example, pursued university club funding so all their members could engage in 1:1 lessons with moms throughout the semester. One of my personal highlights from this year was of course my own trip to Guatemala from July to September. Due to COVID, this was my first time meeting with the Olas moms in person. It was also my first chance to work side by side with Paola, Olas’ fearless program coordinator on the ground, and also a true anchor and partner to me personally since day one. One of our biggest team successes during my time on the ground was working together to establish Olas’ core values. The second week I was there, Paola and I worked with the moms to boil it down to the acronym: EPICCA: Empatía, Paciencia, Integridad, Calidez, Colaboración y Agencia. Integrity, Agency, and all the key ingredients that make up relationship-centeredness: Empathy, Patience, Warmth, and Collaboration. I think this work sticks out the most in my head from an entire year of successes and struggles because it meant defining what we want to see in the heart of Olas. I remember so clearly, less than two years ago, how it felt to realize that the $200 we raised selling cookies was enough to fund a tiny Olas pilot program. Jesse made the fliers, Kerry made the logo, Victoria opened up her home for Suria, Valeria, and I to whip up a batch. Joined by other friends, we stood in a hallway all day recruiting hungry students to help the cause. And for me that’s a reason to hope: that a few trays of cookies made by undergrads can blossom into an organization that knows its own heart. Wishing you all a healthy and joyful Christmas season this year, Rebecca PS: For anyone looking for a last minute gift, we’re running a promo of 10% off all private-session packages with the promo code: FELIZNAVIDAD. This is not only a great personal gift for an aspiring Spanish learner, but will also be a great gift to the Olas mom who receives a new student this new year! Feel free to write us a personalized note in the description upon purchase. We can take it from there!