By LUKE PUTVIN
“Immigrants were being criticized for not learning English, but the state-subsidized ESL classes at Edmonds Community College weren’t meeting the needs of people who worked in construction and landscaping, who work from 6am to 6pm, and in restaurants, who work from 10am-11pm six days a week,” said Rosamaria Graziani.
Graziani started Academia Latina in 2013 to expand her previous services from when she volunteered at Latino Educational and Training Institute. She added GED classes and remedial math and English for elementary to middle school students.
Graziani later began an enrichment program in which Academia Latina takes children on outings every other Saturday.
“I take them to places where they can exercise or learn something,” she said. “This led to partnerships with the Pilchuck Audubon Society, which takes us on monthly nature walks, and the Shoreline Community College Theatre, which lets us attend their plays. We also take advantage of the free museum days to go to the Museum of Flight and the Art Museum at least four times a year.
Graziani began taking her students to the symphony as a reward for excellent academic work. As her class size started to grow, she got group discounts and the symphony’s attention. “They are interested in reaching my students’ demographic, so they provide me with the best deals possible, but no ticket is free.” Graziani brings over 300 people to Benaroya Hall every year.
“Our country was built by immigrants, but the truth is some of the hardest working people in this country miss the best that America has to offer. By taking them to Benaroya and seating them in orchestra front, I want them to feel that America appreciates their sacrifice and hard labor,” Graziani said.
Graziani teaches about 50 people a week, and the age range is 5 to 78 years old. While most students are Latino, she also teaches Spanish to English speakers who want to help immigrants.
Over 150 students attended the Star Spangled Spectacular at Benaroya Hall on July 3. The event featured festive and patriotic music performed by the Seattle Wind Symphony.
At the event was Ines, an 11-year-old student who attends Cedar Valley Elementary. She has been at Academia Latina for a month. “I feel better,” she said. “I couldn’t understand a lot of things in math, but now I do. And I know faster strategies.”
“My volunteer work at Academia Latina is not just about teaching. It’s about connecting them with services until their basic needs are met, and then inspire them to better themselves and the people around them through education,” said Graziani.
For more information on Academia Latina, go to academia-latina.org.