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El Centro de la Comunidad Unida

February 23, 2018

Cameron Swallow, wife of new Carthage President John Swallow, is on a “Welcome Home Tour” as she gets to know Kenosha. See all of Cameron’s Welcome Home posts

Tour Guide: Carthage Professor Sarah Cyganiak and her J-Term class

El Centro de la Comunidad Unida is in a residential neighborhood of Milwaukee, with a park and playground across the street and small stores with signs in both Spanish and English interspersed among the houses. I arrived there on a snowy morning to meet Professor Sarah Cyganiak and her J-Term class of intensive conversational Spanish for their field trip.

Cameron Swallow visited an art gallery in El Centro de la Comunidad Unida with Prof. Sarah Cyganiak's J-Term class.Cameron Swallow visited an art gallery in El Centro de la Comunidad Unida with Prof. Sarah Cyganiak's J-Term class.

I knew I didn’t have enough command of the language to greet the group properly in Spanish, but I thought I would be breaking the rules of the class if I spoke English, so I was uncharacteristically quiet as the tour began. Most of the talking was done by our guide, the managing artistic director of the Latino art gallery, Jacobo Lovo, who immigrated to the U.S. from Nicaragua as a small child in 1986.

Jacobo showed us the art projects created by middle and high school students from eight different schools in southeastern Wisconsin. The title of the show was “Here We Make Our Home,” and the projects each told a story of a journey, either physical or psychological. The lesson descriptions were crafted to win this interdisciplinary teacher’s heart — full of cross-curricular connections from painting to writing, from drawing to building, from planning to attempting to revising to testing and re-planning, and often finding more symbolic connections along the path of development.

Cameron Swallow visited El Centro de la Comunidad Unida with Prof. Sarah Cyganiak's J-Term class.

The gallery had also hosted the young artists from different schools at the same time, to see one another’s work on display and to share a meal. They brought together rich and poor children whose paths would not naturally cross, engaged them in a common theme, and gave them evidence of their common humanity. I was thrilled.

The Carthage students had lunch in the Café de Sol downstairs, and I did not eat with them because I had had a big breakfast and had not planned on eating lunch — having so many tours revolve around meals is not good for me! I drank my water at each of their tables, conversing in my baby Spanish, and asking them to repeat things when I couldn’t follow them.

I heard many different reasons for studying Spanish — teaching, medicine, business, future travel. One of the students was Sarah Lyman from my Coffee Pot tour earlier this month, and she had news about the next Bingo game on campus. I was pleased to be able to understand the information en español and put the Bingo date on my calendar. Stay tuned!

Be a tour guide

Your turn! Want to show Cameron Swallow your favorite part of Kenosha? Be a tour guide.