In 2012, Lakeview Elementary School was one of the first schools in the state to start a Portuguese dual language immersion program, which now will transition to Dixon Middle School in the fall. To help prepare Portuguese DLI students for the middle school program, the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) at the University of Utah held a STARTALK student program with funding from a federal STARTALK grant awarded by the National Security Agency.

The federal government declared Portuguese a critical language in 2011 due to a low supply of and growing demand for proficient Portuguese speakers. Since this time, the state of Utah has established Portuguese Dual Language Immersion (DLI) programs at eight elementary schools and five middle schools. 

During the week of June 18-23, 2018, CLAS hosted the Portuguese STARTALK student program, a six-day residential camp for 30 seventh graders from Portuguese DLI schools around Utah. Seven students from Provo City School District participated; all seven just completed six years of Lakeview’s Portuguese DLI program and are registered for Dixon’s Portuguese DLI coursework in the fall.

Throughout the six-day camp, which ran from June 18-23, the students experienced college life for a week as they stayed in Lassonde Studios dorms, studied in the university’s library and classrooms, and went on field trips to Clark Planetarium and Tracy Aviary. In addition to the residential camp, students had to complete 10 hours of online pre-camp homework and 20 hours of post-camp homework.

The program was an exciting opportunity for Portuguese DLI students to see how advanced levels of Portuguese proficiency can open new doors for college and career. The primary goal of the program was to rejuvenate intermediate Portuguese DLI students and combat the attrition that may occur as immersion students move from elementary to secondary schools. During the camp, students researched the Amazon Rainforest and related issues of biodiversity, human rights, and environmental protection.

Although the students are used to being immersed in Portuguese at school, this experience was new and challenging for students as they were immersed in Portuguese 24 hours a day for six days straight. Parents commented that their children caught the vision of their futures with Portuguese in it. After the success of this pilot year, CLAS hopes to expand the program to involve more middle school Portuguese DLI students next summer and in the future. 

group of students pose for picture

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