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  • Writer's pictureMargaret Nelson

ReDefiners World Languages 2021 in review

This is a banner with the ReDefiners Logo. It says "2021 A Year in Review."

At ReDefiners World Languages, our mission is to equip and empower individuals in the United States to be multilingual global citizens. While we’re most known for our classes, we also host several events throughout the year to help foster a passion for multilingualism and multiculturalism.

2021 was a big year for ReDefiners. Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, our team found ways to carry out our mission safely. In doing so, we helped those in great need in our community. In the winter and spring, we celebrated our Black Heritage Expo and our Arabic Multicultural Language Celebration both of which drew the community together to celebrate multiculturalism. Throughout the school year, we braved the crisis and provided in-home tutoring to children struggling academically. In the summer, we held our annual Summer Spanish Language Immersion & Technology program which minimized the “summer slide” amongst our most vulnerable youth in a fun, educational way. In November, we held our Multicultural fest, which was an excellent experience. And on Giving Tuesday, the community rallied and gave us the support we need to continue our mission into 2022.

In response to the pandemic, we launched our Live Virtual Program (LVP) class model, which provided the opportunity for many students to access a high-quality language education from the comfort of their homes and will continue to offer this accessible option for learning to families and institution partners as a long-term 21st century educational opportunity. We also held free food distributions throughout the year. Once the vaccines were made available, we began to administer those with the help of a local partnership.

Let’s explore what we did in the past year.

Black Heritage Expo

The Black Heritage Expo was held on Saturday, February 27th at the Westshore Plaza in Tampa. The Expo provided opportunities to explore Black heritage through fashion, music, spoken word performances, and African dances and drumming. It was also an excellent opportunity for small businesses and organizations to promote themselves to the greater Tampa area.

This is a picture of performers on a stage.
Our Black Heritage Expo celebrated the beauty of African cultures.

Celebrating our cultures and our interconnectedness is a crucial part of becoming a global citizen. With our Black Heritage Expo, we fostered cross-cultural dialogues and intercultural experiences, as well as encouraged participants to make connections between communities.

Arabic Language Celebration

Our Arabic Cultural Celebration took place on Saturday, March 20th, 2021, and it was an incredible opportunity to celebrate Arabic culture and contributions. We enjoyed Nasheed, Dabkah, spoken word performances, stand-up comedy, a traditional Arab fashion show, and the opportunity to shop and support small business vendors.

This is a picture of a group of participants at the Arabic Language Celebration.
Our Arabic Language Celebration celebrated Arabic Culture and contributions.

Summer Program

One big concern with the pandemic was how the school closures and interruptions impacted student learning. While children in high-income classes can afford tutoring, extracurriculars, and enrichment programs, children in low-income families cannot.

This is a picture of a group of children swimming in a pool with a swim instructor.
Our summer program was an exciting opportunity for kids to prevent the "summer slide" and have fun.

Because of this, our annual summer program was more important than ever this year. Our four-week camp welcomed 20 students in Kindergarten through 5th grade, all of whom lived in the Tampa area and wanted to learn Spanish. Our campers were busy the entire time. They had 120 hours of language immersion, as well as cultural enrichment with virtual trips to Mexico and Puerto Rico. In addition, the camp integrated a variety of activities for physical and mental development, including literacy activities, fitness, art, computer coding and robotics, swimming lessons, fire safety lessons, field trips, and a fire engine tour.

Thanks to your generous support and that of the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County and Suncoast Credit Union Foundation, we could welcome qualifying students to attend at a reduced price. By doing so, we provided many parents with high-quality, inexpensive child care during the summer months, and the kids could receive educational opportunities to set them up for success the following school year. Our summer efforts did not stop here, though. We also partnered with other summer camps in Hillsborough county to provide language programming at an additional 4 summer programs serving over 240 students.

Live Virtual Program (LVP)

In between all of our events, we revamped our class format to better serve the needs of our students. In March of 2020, we immediately shifted to emergency online learning. However, in 2021 we invested in a sustainable model and the required infrastructure to develop a student-centered remote learning program and transitioned most of our classes online. This change enabled us to continue to provide high-quality foreign language instruction safely. As a result of this change, we reached students outside of Tampa who might not have been able to take our classes otherwise.

We also added our new Online Conversation Workshop classes for English and Spanish learners. These classes are designed for intermediate and advanced students, and they help increase conversational skills. It can be difficult to find opportunities to practice your language skills. With our workshops, students practiced conversing in a relaxed setting, and they learned things like slang, common expressions, and pronunciations from native speakers.

With these new changes, busy adults could easily fit language learning into their schedules, and parents no longer had to drive their children to our campus for lessons. Even as the pandemic is winding down, we plan on continuing to offer our classes online. Doing so will enable us to continue to expand the number of opportunities to take our courses to people outside of Tampa.

Tampa Based Courses

Through our partnership with the Children’s Board Family Resource Centers and Lutheran Services Florida, we offered two exposure courses for in-person learning: our Intro to General English Class for adult learners and Let’s Learn Spanish, an intergenerational course designed for K-5 children and their parents/caregivers. Thanks to our partnerships, we could provide these eight-week courses for free to qualifying participants. Our exposure Spanish classes were an excellent activity for children and their caregivers to do together, and it provided additional enrichment for kids affected by the school closures.

This is an infographic with information in Spanish about the English Exposure Courses.
For the first time, we offered English exposure courses.
This is an infographic with information about the Spanish Exposure Courses.
We also offered Spanish classes for kids and their caregivers.

With both of our language classes, we allowed adults to gain some new skills that would keep them competitive in the job market. After last year’s historic economic downturn, many adults lost their jobs and had difficulty finding new ones. Thanks to our free exposure courses, they could start learning new skills to develop a competitive edge. We look forward to expanding this program next year.

Food Distributions

Without a doubt, the pandemic caused intense hardships for many families. Some contracted Covid and were unable to work due to health problems. Others lost their jobs due to the pandemic-related downturn and struggled to make ends meet. For many, 2020 and 2021 were rough.

This is a picture of a group of ReDefiners volunteers at a Food Distribution.
Our food distributions continued to help the community during this difficult time.

In response to this need, we partnered with Simply Healthcare and held free food distributions twice per month. Each household would receive healthy food, such as produce, whole grain bread, and protein. Once the Covid-19 vaccines became available, we also provided opportunities to receive the shots during our food distributions thanks to our partnerships. In doing so, we helped to feed and vaccinate the Tampa area.

As of this writing, the pandemic is slowly getting under control, and more people are getting back to work. However, regardless of what the new year holds, we will be here to help meet the evolving needs of the community.

Multicultural Fest

Towards the end of the year, we held our annual Multicultural Festival on Saturday, November 6th. Many people find traveling enjoyable. After all, there’s no better learning experience than immersing yourself in a new language and culture.

This is a picture of an exhibit from the Multicultural Fest.
The Multicultural Fest was an excellent opportunity to celebrate the contributions of cultures around the world.

However, the pandemic has made traveling difficult, especially if you want to travel internationally. At first, it looked like the pandemic was getting under control, and countries were starting to lift their restrictions for international visitors. However, the Omicron variant reversed the progress that countries had made. Before we knew it, many countries shut down their borders and reimposed travel restrictions on everyone coming internationally.

Thankfully, we had the next best option, our annual Multicultural Festival. Every year, we hold a festival that celebrates diversity through the arts in Tampa and the surrounding communities. The event featured music, dancing, entertainment, opportunities to shop from local vendors, food, door prizes, and a silent auction. There were also opportunities for performing arts groups to perform and advertise their organizations.

It was a fun event that truly celebrated the beauty of cultures around the world.

Giving Tuesday

Finally, our year ended with our annual Giving Tuesday campaign. Giving Tuesday is a movement that occurs on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to spread kindness and generosity and support causes that are meaningful to them.

This is an infographic with information about Giving Tuesday.
The community rallied around us to support our mission in 2022.

Since the pandemic started, nonprofits have struggled to stay afloat and meet unprecedented demand. Many people who supported nonprofits financially could no longer afford to do so because of the economic crisis. Unfortunately, many people found themselves in desperate need for the first time in their lives, and they had to turn to nonprofits for help.

In short, nonprofits worldwide have had to meet far greater needs with far fewer resources. Because of this, movements like Giving Tuesday have been more crucial than ever before.

Thanks to your generous support, we are in excellent shape to continue carrying out our mission in 2022. We can ensure that language learning opportunities remain inexpensive and accessible to everyone, provide educational opportunities for children in need, and continue to serve the evolving needs of the Tampa area.

2021 was a challenging, chaotic year, especially in the first few months. As a nation, we’ve had some significant victories and setbacks. However, thanks to your continued support, we’ve been able to meet every challenge head-on. We’ve adapted and overcome these challenges, and we continue to meet the needs of our community.

As a result, we made a big impact in 2021. We:

  • had 184 Active Students

  • enrolled another 213 students for current/future courses

  • served over 424 students

  • onboarded 77 Volunteers who donated 3,562 hours of their time

  • distributed 2,400 bags of food

  • established 13 Program Sites (including Remote Delivery)

  • initiated 4 Program Partners

  • onboarded 6 Interns/Senior Community Members who gained on-the-job training

  • have 15 employees, 4 of which are contracted by ReDefiners

  • participated in 2 community events

  • hosted 28 Community Events (25 Distributions; 3 Cultural Events)

And we couldn’t have done it without your support. It truly takes a village, and we couldn’t be more grateful for all you’ve done for us. From all of us at ReDefiners World Languages, thank you for your support. Whether you’ve partnered with us, donated money or in-kind donations, volunteered with us, sponsored one of our events, participated in our classes, or attended our events, we appreciate all you’ve done to support our mission.

We wish you all a safe, happy, and healthy 2022.

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