Our First Service Learning Days - CIEE Santo Domingo

Authored By:

Sabine Williams

This week, our group started our service collaboration with the Lyceum Víctor Pascual Agüero educational summer program, which serves over four hundred students ages twelve to seventeen in the Hato Nuevo community on the outskirts of Santo Domingo.  We met students and staff during a spirited orientation ceremony in the cafeteria, where reggaeton and bachata music played from a loudspeaker in the front of the room. The teachers and students were emitting an infectious energy that encouraged us to introduce ourselves and push ourselves to communicate in Spanish with the help of some animated hand gestures and peer translators.  We got things started with a surprisingly competitive round of musical chairs and some incredible singing performances by three Dominican students before dividing ourselves into nine groups that will cycle through different activities over the course of the next few weeks: English, leadership building, social studies, chess & parchis, dominoes, volleyball & basketball, dance, computer science, and art.  

Dance has been one of the more popular classes among both Dominican students and CIEE participants.  On the first day, as we congregated into a small classroom, a tall, charismatic man named Wilson - who always receives cheers and applause from students whenever he walks into a room - began the session with a modified version of hot potato : whoever had the ball when the music stopped had to come to the middle of the circle and either sing or show off their dance skills.  Though shy at first, participants - with the help of teachers and program leaders - soon began to pull each other into the circle and dancing bachata and merengue whenever they "lost" at hot potato.  Dominican students and teachers were leading CIEE participants and counting out the steps - soon everyone was moving their hips with ease.  On the flip side, American students shared some pop culture dances with our Dominican counterparts. 

Over the course of these first few days we have begun to build relationships with the Lyceum Víctor campers and teachers.  We are already learning from each other, leading mini English and Spanish language lessons - some students have asked CIEE participants to teach them some Chinese, Korean, and Russian.  In the coming weeks, we will be putting together workshops and leading activities in each of the different subjects, including functional English lessons, leading some contemporary and hip hop dance classes, and painting a mural with our Dominican counterparts.  We are excited to bring our backgrounds and experiences to the forefront and engaging further in this cross-cultural exchange!