Who we are
ISLA’s mission is to empower Hispanic/Latino youth and their communities to become bilingual, global citizens. We hope to achieve this by fostering a sense of pride and love for Hispanic/Latino culture through free, heritage language and cultural immersion programs.
The families who participate in our programs identify as Hispanic/Latino and over 70% come from low to moderate income households. We offer a curriculum that includes strategies based on an educational model to incorporate the stories, traditions and geography of Spanish-speaking countries into each lesson.
ISLA supports its students by supporting their communities
Students’ families also receive support through our parent community resource program, which provides ISLA parents a safe place to ask questions and offers access to key resources that are essential to Hispanic/Latino families in successfully navigating the school system, workplace and family life in the United States. In addition, ISLA coordinates its own Spanish language story time at local libraries and a volunteer program for students and members of the community.
Throughout every aspect of our organization, ISLA strives to convey the values of language and culture to create a stronger, better connected cosmopolitan community.
Why bilingual education matters
For children of multicultural backgrounds, staying connected to their ancestor’s country of origin can be difficult. The further removed they are from their immigrant roots, the less likely they are to identify with their ancestry. Among the estimated 42.7 million U.S. adults with Hispanic ancestry in 2015, only about 89% self-identified as Hispanic or Latino according to Pew Research Center estimates. When asked why, the remaining 11% often claimed that their Hispanic ancestry is too far back or their background is mixed.
Parents can encourage their children’s Hispanic/Latino self-identity through their use of language, but keeping their heritage language alive at home is not always easy as many immigrant families worry about their children falling behind at school if they speak their heritage language at home.
Furthermore, many Hispanic and Latino students in North Carolina face barriers to success, such as discrimination on the basis of their skin color, culture, and linguistic background. Many of these bright, passionate students begin to internalize these external prejudices and see their bilingualism and multiculturalism as something that makes them different or inferior, and not as rich and an important parts of themselves that allow them to succeed in ways that English-only speakers cannot. On her son at ISLA, one parent said, “He has learned that speaking Spanish is not an odd thing that only his family does, but that there are other families like ours that he can now communicate and share things in common with.”
Our goal at ISLA is to close the gap between Hispanic/Latino and non-Hispanic/Latino youth through high-quality education in Spanish. We promote the value of speaking a native language and recognize the importance of connecting communities where conversations can be held and cultural cues are provided as children grow up, which can have a large impact on their identity in adulthood. Of the programs offered by ISLA, a member of our teaching staff recently claimed, “ISLA is well known for its commitment to helping children in the Latino community to improve and maintain their Spanish, as well as for their work to promote skills development that will give these children better opportunities in the future.”