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Using a Minor to Make Major Impact

Cara Dowzicky uses her French minor to translate a presentation from French to English

For LVC students, even the minors they study can have a major impact at The Valley and abroad.  

Cara Dowzicky ’18 majors in early childhood and special education, but also minors in French. She began speaking the language in seventh grade. When she came to LVC, Dowzicky decided to continue building on her foundational knowledge of French.

Imagine her surprise this November then when she found an intersection between her passions for education and French. A professor approached her and asked if she’d be willing to translate a presentation being shown to education majors in their senior seminar class. 

Dowzicky was excited by the opportunity, as she suddenly saw a way to use her language skills. 

“I want to do something with my French minor,” Dowzicky said. “I’ve always wanted the ability to go out and do something like this.”

On behalf of a connection Dr. Linda Summers, chair and assistant professor of education, had with Jeff Remington, area high school teacher and LVC adjunct professor, LVC seniors were going to learn about a local educational partnership with a school in Haiti via a Skype session.

Remington had received a grant a number of years ago that he used to deliver science education items to the school, named Les Bons Samaritans, which provides underprivileged children with an education. It operates by asking people to sponsor a child to attend the school. Then, Remington started a global education club at Palmyra Middle School. These young students have donated supplies, and their group even sponsors a student at Les Bons Samaritans. 

During the senior seminar presentation, Haitian student Acerneau spoke in French about the school. He provided LVC students with a global perspective on education. Dowzicky was there to translate between Acerneau and the students. While she had never heard of this project before, she was excited by the insight it offered her. 

“It’s so great to see that even in Pennsylvania we can change people’s lives in Haiti,” Dowzicky said. “We don’t even have to leave our desk to do it.” 

Dowzicky was not the only student to use some French knowledge in the class. 

Abby Leidigh ’17, an early childhood education and special education major, relied on her high school French skills when she traveled to Haiti in the summer of 2016. She met Acerneau when she spent a week teaching arts and crafts and games to students at Les Bons Samaritans in Saint-Marc, Haiti. She explained that Saint-Marc is an area along the west coast of the country that doesn’t have clean running water, a sewage system, regular electricity, or basic health care. 

Leidigh, who relied on her knowledge of high school French, made the trip to improve her teaching skills, recognizing that her future students will come from various backgrounds and each have their own circumstances.

“While my program at LVC has prepared me well, I felt that I would gain much more knowledge, experience, and wisdom if I taught students who deal with extreme conditions,” said Leidigh. “Honestly, I learned way more from them than I believe they learned from me.”

Even without traveling to Haiti, Dowzicky recognizes the impact of the Skype session and the program in Palmyra.

 “I think showing students about the small or big things they can do, that can change everything,” Dowzicky said. “If you give that one student the right motivation, they can go out and change the world.”