Lecture Series Emphasizes Value of Bilingual Skills in School and Career

Lecture Series Emphasizes Value of Bilingual Skills in School and Career
Posted on 03/30/2021
Teachers from the ISA program

The International Spanish Academy (ISA) at John I. Leonard High School recently hosted a series of presentations by several multilingual professionals, as part of a Women’s History Month celebration.

The lecture series aligns with the ISA’s mission to promote Spanish language, highlight the history and culture of Latin American nations, and emphasize the benefits of being bilingual.

The virtual conferences were organized by Rosa Curbelo, a teacher in the Academy. Student and teacher participation in the event allowed participants to benefit from the knowledge shared throughout, in addition to expanding their academic horizons.

"I am pleased we were able to secure highly successful bilingual women in a variety of professions as presenters,” Curbelo said. “I am sure their achievements will motivate our students to strive to achieve their academic potential."

Dr. Jessica Morones Chavez, a language instructor at Rice University, kicked off the series by highlighting the advantages of being bilingual in today’s workplace. She also pointed out that by the year 2050, the Hispanic population in the United States is expected to reach 132 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

This will make the United States home to more Spanish speakers than any other country in the world. With that demographic reality in mind, additional bilingual programs in K-12 education are recommended, in addition to Spanish programs for those interested in learning the language.

"Bilingualism is a way of empowering our students through conservation and assimilation of cultures,” said Melissa Patterson, the principal at John I. Leonard High. “Language acquisition should be a skill to build upon and embrace."

The lecture series also included presentations on a number of important topics:

• Dr. Maresa Lugo-Maldonado is a neurologist and U.S. Army veteran with an office in Winter Haven, Florida. She discussed the advantages of being bilingual in the medical profession. 

• Grace García is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent. She detailed the benefits of being bilingual in the agency, given that the languages most often requested by the people she deals with are Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Portuguese. She noted that speaking English as well as Spanish yields the best salary in a role with the USCBP.

• Dr. Rocío Martínez is a psychologist in private practice in Puerto Rico. Her presentation reviewed the benefits of being bilingual in the field of mental health. 

• Katarzyna Furmaniak is a professor of Spanish at the Marian Turwid Primary School in Bydgoszcz, Poland. She discussed her multilingual skills and how it elevates her scholarship and research, as she is able to explore and investigate topics of interest across different cultures with ease.

• Marianne Maldonado-Miranda is a lawyer who has worked internationally with clients in Brazil, Puerto Rico, and the United States. She is the founder and principal attorney of Maldonado Miranda P.A., and discussed the advantages of being multilingual in the legal profession and in international business environments.

• Annette Martinez Inesta is a professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus. She concluded the series by discussing the social advantages and professional benefits of being bilingual. 

“Always find the motivation for learning another language. Persevere and do not be afraid to communicate with it, especially if it is the key to achieving your goals and dreams,” Martinez Inesta said, offering words of encouragement to the students. “Traveling and immersion are the best ways to not only learn, but really understand a new language.”

"I am very proud to be part of the ISA program here at John I. Leonard High because as a bilingual coordinator, I have witnessed many of the benefits that come with being bilingual,” said Daisy Lord, academy coordinator at the school. “We see our ISA Academy students grow in every way; they grow in their communication and learning, as well as socially and professionally, and they graduate as proud citizens of their culture."

John I. Leonard High is the only high school in Palm Beach County with an International Spanish Academy. For more information about the program, go to: 

The School District of Palm Beach County