PHARR – Over 800 community members attended the 2nd Annual Lunar Year Festival held at PSJA Southwest Early College High School on Friday, Feb. 8. The free community event was possible thanks to a generous U.S. Department of Education grant awarded to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Pharr-San Juan Alamo ISD to promote international students and foreign languages.
Most recently, UTRGV was recently awarded the "Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program" grant of $172,000 to promote global awareness throughout Hidalgo County. As part of the grant, about $16,000 will go toward conducting community outreach at PSJA ISD, especially to students and staff in the district's renowned Dual Language Enrichment Program.
Thanks to the grant, UTRGV & PSJA ISD hosted International Week Feb. 5-8 at PSJA Southwest Early College High School.
The week-long event included interactive workshops taught by UTRGV professors on topics about Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia, according to PSJA Southwest ECHS Principal Ranulfo Marquez. The week-long celebration concluded with the 2nd Annual Lunar Year Festival in partnership with the City of Pharr, where PSJA families learned more about the chinese culture. The Festival included a traditional dragon dance, cultural cuisine, authentic music, and special performances by students in schools currently piloting the Mandarin Chinese Dual Language program at PSJA ISD.
“We have a common vision with UTRGV,” said Marquez. “They are trying to raise awareness about other cultures. We live in a world where we have to know how to interact and conduct business with people from all over the world.”
According to UTRGV Associate Vice President of Global Engagement Dr. Dennis Hart, the Rio Grande Valley has the potential to show the world that it is a leader in bilingual education.
“We wanted to reach out to the community to build up international and foreign languages. That led us straight to PSJA ISD because their Dual Language Program is the best in the Valley,” said Dr. Hart. “PSJA ISD has hit the trifecta by teaching the most commonly spoken languages in the world: Chinese, Spanish and English."
Among the benefits of studying different cultures and foreign languages, students can obtain a higher GPA, communities can have a higher employment rate and higher college acceptance rate, said the UTRGV Associate Vice-President of Global Engagement.
“These skills and aptitudes contribute to our young people’s global competency,” said Dr. Hart. “Employers today want recent graduates to have a better understanding of world cultures, languages, politics, and economics. Those who do, get the better jobs.”