CARTHAGE, Mo. — An area school now shares a link with one of the most academically renown universities in the country.

At one time, Spanish-speaking students were in the minority at Catholic schools across the country. But according to Mikelle Cortez, that demographic has been reversing in recent years, including here at St. Ann’s in Carthage. When Cortez first came here to St. Ann’s back in 2017, 48% of students were Hispanic, that percentage now has increased to 92%. But instead of discouraging Hispanic-speaking students from using their native tongue, and only using English, she’s planning on implementing curriculum designed to help them and their teachers improve their skills with both languages. Cortez has been working with Notre Dame University for the last few years to learn how to help English-speaking students and teachers pick up Spanish.

“How to take the native language that they have and how to build upon it so they’re keeping their language identity as well as learning English,” said Cortez, Principal, St. Ann’s Catholic School.

To help English-speaking students and faculty to pick up Spanish, many phrases, and bible quotes found throughout the school are in both languages. She says students have already started the education process without even realizing it, she says they sign songs in both languages during their weekly masses. And picture books like these help kids pick up both languages at the same time.

“This was a seasons book and they went through and she really focussed on the English and then she would focus on the Spanish, but the parents were helping up with the Spanish as well so we were really trying to incorporate that, and by the end of the year, the kids could read both the Spanish and the English in these books,” she said.

And with the number of Spanish-speaking students and residents continuing to rise locally and nationally, knowing how to communicate in more than one language can be a beneficial thing.