Bright Future: Trinity Episcopal students dance across cultural barriers
NATCHEZ — Nearly half a world away, Natchez student Dee Fleming quickly learned that dance moves could transcend languages and cultural barriers.
Fleming, who was one of 17 Trinity Episcopal Day School students who traveled to Spain last month, said the awkward first encounter of meeting someone who doesn’t speak the same language came crashing down shortly after he got up the courage to show a group of Spain students some of his dance moves.
“I showed them how to ‘twerk,’” Fleming said, describing an American dance popularized by pop star Miley Cyrus. “We started talking about difference dances that were popular in America and what was popular there and before we knew it, we were acting like we had known each other our whole lives.”
The method to break down those cultural barriers was slightly unconventional, Trinity teacher Linda Rodriguez admits, but was exactly what she hoped would happen when school leaders planned the trip as part of Trinity’s global studies initiative.
The initiative is aimed at broadening the students’ horizons through a variety of interactions with students from across the globe.
“The whole purpose of this trip is not necessarily to take kids on an adventure across the world, but to help them create connections — with the curriculum and with other kids their age,” Rodriguez said. “We want to connect people across continents and let these kids connect on a really personal level with other kids their age.
“The friendships and networks they will build through these programs can benefit everyone and our kids’ futures.”
The students visited various parts of Spain, including Toledo, which is where 11th grader Brooke Wiley said she saw impressive architecture.
“We went to a church in Toledo that was amazing,” she said. “There was a lot of really neat architecture over there, but I was just amazed at how beautiful and elaborate all of their churches are.”
But Madrid is where Wiley, Fleming and 10th grader Joseph Harris agreed the trip was at its best.
The Trinity students were able to visit with students from Colegio Fundacion Caldeiro, a kindergarten through 12th grade school run by Catholic priests.
Harris said meeting other kids his age and realizing how many common interests they shared was eye opening.
“It was just a lot of fun getting to meet the kids, learn about their lives and what they like to do,” Harris said. “They were all really nice, and I still keep up with a lot of the kids I met there through social media.”
Harris quickly realized how important soccer was to the Spanish students and took note to send a message to one of them during Spain’s first game in the 2014 World Cup.
“I tweeted one of them after Spain scored their first goal, and he sent me a picture where the whole school was watching the game in this big courtyard they have at the school,” Harris said. “They were all crazy about soccer.”
Visiting the school was Fleming’s favorite part of the trip and also where he was introduced to a classic Spanish style of dancing after sharing his American moves.
“They taught us how to dance flamenco, which was cool,” Fleming said. “In those first few minutes, everyone was really nervous about talking to each other but all that goes away after a while.”
Wiley said the visit to the school made her realize how important a good education is and how fortunate she is to have so many resources readily available.
“Everyone wanted to communicate with us and practice their English,” Wiley said. “Even the younger kids that we weren’t meeting with, they came up to us one time when we were outside and just wanted to speak English with us.”
A few of the Trinity students, Rodriguez said, also got a crash course in using the conversational Spanish they’ve learned at Trinity.
“A lot of them are learning Spanish in the classroom, but you never realize how necessary it is until you’re in a situation where you have to speak it,” Rodriguez said. “We gave the kids an opportunity to go find their own food in an open air market, and some of them came back saying they had trouble remembering their Spanish at first but were able to communicate a few things.
“When you can see those immediate results and they realize how important it is, it’s just great.”
The students returned to Natchez earlier this month, but Fleming said a part of him is still in Spain.
“At first, I was excited to be back home, but then you look back and realize the experience and opportunity you had,” Fleming said. “I wish I could do it all again.”