Basalt senior profile: Working to bridge language barriers
Special to the Post Independent
Basalt High School senior Emma Borchers started the bilingual program in kindergarten. It was an opt-in her parents chose for her, but something she continued with throughout elementary school and picking it up again in seventh grade. By her sophomore year, she had completed all Spanish courses for non-native speakers.
“There were no more classes but I wanted to stay with the language so I switched into a native speaker class. I thought I knew Spanish, but I didn’t,” Borchers laughed. “It was a massive shock, but also a really cool immersion experience. I learned the language a lot quicker. I’m still intimidated by some of the kids in the class because they all speak such perfect Spanish.”
Borchers and Maddie Mercatoris are the first non-native speakers to take AP Spanish Language at BHS. The girls are also the first non-native speakers to earn the seal of biliteracy at BHS.
The State Seal of Biliteracy recognizes high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing one or more languages in addition to English.
Borchers is using her biliteracy to make a difference in her school. Voted one of three class presidents, Borchers running platform focused on bridging the language barrier between those who didn’t speak English and those who didn’t speak Spanish. One way she’s done that is by translating the morning announcements.
“It hadn’t been done before,” she said. “I also translate school-wide meetings and fliers going home. It’s a great resource for a lot of students who don’t speak English.”
She also tutors in Spanish and helps with open houses for incoming freshman and their parents. She leads tours and is a liaison and translator for parents that don’t speak English.
“The exposure to different cultures has been so incredible for me that I’m planning my future college plans around it,” Borchers said.
She plans to attend Dartmouth College in the fall to major in Biology. She’s also planning to either double major or minor in Spanish.
“I really want to go into medicine. It’s been my goal forever. I plan to go to medical school after college. In the past two years or so in Spanish class, a big piece of class was learning about culture. I became so interested in students sharing their experiences. A lot of them were immigrants and some of them had pretty terrible stories of health care in their countries. That’s why I would like to travel and improve healthcare in developing nations.”
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