Immaculata misses the energy of students during winter break, but this year was refreshingly different. On January 7, 10 students from Villa Maria Academy, an IHM girls’ school in Lima, Peru, arrived for IU’s first Pre-university Academic English Program. These chicas brought warmth as they participated in 10 days of academic, cultural, and faith formation activities.
The girls visited local attractions: Longwood Gardens, the Barnes Foundation, Independence Hall, and the King of Prussia Mall, and academics were embedded into each experience. Sister Annette Pelletier, IHM, Ph.D., director; Sister Mary Henrich, IHM, mentor; Lauren Dazio McCann ’10, academic coordinator; and Sam Sørensen ’13, academic coordinator and instructor, mentored the girls through each experience.
The girls read Emerson in Longwood Gardens, later connecting his ideas with Whitman’s poetry. Daniela, one of the students, especially loved Longwood Gardens: “The history is beautiful, the gardens well taken care of, and everything just amazed me.” The girls chose a portrait to profile at the Barnes and reflected on “mall culture” during their shopping experience at King of Prussia.
Alongside the academic and cultural activities, McCann led the girls in studying True Beauty Revealed, a guide to St. John Paul II’s teaching on femininity; and Sister Mary led scriptural reflections each evening. A literary analysis assignment linked Pope John Paul II’s idea of the “feminine genius” to the characterization of Laura or Amanda in The Glass Menagerie. The program’s connections helped each girl to better articulate her self-understanding and her position in the world.
Sørensen guided the girls as they wrote a profile, evaluation, and literary analysis, along with two reflections. One student, Analucía, noted, “I will totally recommend this program. I liked the way of teaching and writing assessments.”
The program would not have been possible without Sister Ann Heath, IHM, Ph.D., vice president for Academic Affairs; Sister Maryanne Lynch, IHM, Villa Maria Academy principal; Sister Annette, and other IU administrators, faculty, and staff. Sister Annette commented, “During my 14 years of service in IHM schools in Peru and Chile, I lamented the scarcity of colleges and universities in Peru and the intense competition to achieve the highest grades to be selected. Since most universities in Peru require advanced skills in reading, writing, and speaking in English, the IU Writing Center in the Gabriele Library was the ideal place for Villamarian students to perfect their skills.”
The girls not only trusted and voiced their ideas more, but they also grew confident in their critical reading and thinking skills. Gloria, one of the girls, commented, “I am having a good time here. It’s really beautiful—the University, the people who have welcomed me. And I feel comfortable here.”
Plans are underway for the January 2017 program.