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SVMS rising sixth grader's Dual Language Immersion skills shine during weeklong mission trip

Nyla's Picture Last month, Sun Valley Middle rising sixth grader Nyla White left her home in Indian Trail for a week-long mission trip with her church to the Dominican Republic.

After spending more than six years enrolled in Dual Language Immersion (DLI) classes at Shiloh Valley (formerly Sun Valley Elementary), Nyla knew that she was more than proficient when speaking Spanish.

However, she also felt a tiny bit nervous because she knew those Spanish conversational skills had largely been practiced inside her classroom.

As the only student in her 33-person group who could speak Spanish, this was the first time Nyla would put those bilingual skills to test in a Spanish-speaking country.

“The Spanish they speak in the Dominican Republic is different from the Spanish that we learned from our teacher, who is from Colombia. I was a bit nervous about that,” Nyla said. “At the beginning of our trip, I had to speak to someone at the airport for assistance with our bags and he understood me perfectly. After that, I started getting more comfortable speaking that type of Spanish.”

Nyla’s confidence in her bilingualism only continued to grow as she quickly provided translation services for her entire group throughout the duration of their stay. By the end of the week, she was helping to translate critical information for both the pastor and medical teams.

“The night before we left, the pastor was tearing up as he was talking. I had to translate what he was saying so everyone could understand him,” she said. “I also had to translate for the medical team while we were there, so I could assist people who needed help from a doctor or at the pharmacy.”

Providing these translation services was a critical and much-needed role during their mission trip. But for Nyla, it was a role that she was able to take on with relative ease, thanks to her DLI classes.

Currently, UCPS leads the state in the number of DLI programs, with Spanish or Mandarin programs offered at 17 schools. The benefits of DLI extend much farther than bilingualism. Students also enhance their critical thinking and multitasking skills while frequently learning about new cultures.

It’s those skills that Nyla said she’s most excited about building on as she transitions to the DLI program at Sun Valley Middle – a program that she said she’s heard great things about from last year’s inaugural DLI class.

At only 11 years old, Nyla is quick to acknowledge that her participation in the DLI program may open doors for job opportunities in the future. However, what she seems even more excited about is using the skills she has acquired for more than just her advantage.

Her goal is to use her DLI experiences as a way to help others – something she has already done this summer on her church’s mission trip.

“I want to be a doctor. I really want to use these experiences in the medical field or even just to help other people every day,” she said. “If someone is hurting and someone else is trying to help them, but they can’t understand each other, I can be the person who can help them understand each other. I was able to make a ton of friends in such a short amount of time on this trip, and it was a really great experience.”

Posted: Aug. 5, 2019