Last week, The Shadow League was at the French Embassy in the Payne Whitney Mansion attending the Global Language Project’s 4th Annual My Dream Speaks Benefit gala. The affair was attended by more than 200 influencers in philanthropy, entertainment art and business.
2016 GLP Global Icon Awards were given to NAXOS of America, the world’s largest classical music label, and Roberta Graves, President of the Black Enterprise BRIDGE Foundation.
We spoke with GLP Founder and CEO Angela Jackson about the Global Language Project’s goals, the challenges facing the program and how people can help his worthy cause.
(Desiree Reid, GM, SVP Brand Development IMAN Cosmetics and Jay Manuel Beauty; Ghylian Bell ,President of Urban Yoga Foundation; and Verta Maloney, President of Verta Ayanna)
Angela Jackson: I started the organization in 2009 and we started in Harlem with 30 students, with 15 of them learning Mandarin and 15 of them learning Spanish. The spirit of it is to take kids that typically didn’t leave their neighborhoods because of poverty and really show them the world. Teaching them a second language is a skill that’s highly coveted in the corporate world, but also shows them about the world, all the opportunities that exist, where they can travel to as well.
The Shadow League: What were some of the challenges you faced when trying to grow the project initially?
AJ: I think the biggest thing is what people feel is important for children of color. When I first started the program I went to a big-name charter school and said I’m looking to do languages and they said ‘Oh, we don’t need languages. Our kids are doing Chess.’ But this is a language program teaching them Arabic, Spanish and French, and she was like ‘But we have Chess.’ She made it seem like it was either or and that they couldn’t be complimentary.
Our program is about culture and Chess builds certain skills. But when you talk about language, you’re talking about communicating with someone. It’s being able to sell yourself in many different languages. If I can talk to you in English and I can talk to 10 other people in Spanish and French, then that’s just going to expand my network. So, the biggest thing was seeing what’s possible for Black and Brown children. So, I wanted to show a bigger vision for them.
The other challenges were the parents. A lot of them didn’t travel because they didn’t have passports and because of economics. That’s fine, but we start working with kids when they’re 5 years old. We actually start educating them with skills they’ll need when they’re 20. When you’re applying for a job when you’re 20 years old no one asking you whether you were rich or poor. It’s do you have skills. I tell parents that this could help them get a job. This could help them get a scholarship. We’ve seen it in our program. We’ve seen kids go on and get Fulbright Scholarships and study in China. These are kids that are from the hood.
(Roberta Graves, President of the Black Enterprise BRIDGE Foundation and Fatima Ptacek, voice of Dora the Explorer on Nickelodeon)
TSL: What are some of the differences you have seen in kids in this program from its inception up to now?
AJ: When we first started talking to kids, asking them what they wanted to be when they grow up, and some of them would say ‘I’d like to be a hairdresser, I’d like to be a basketball player, I’d like to be a rapper.’ But if you were to ask our kids what they want to do today, they say ‘I’d like to be a translator using my Arabic or I’d like to help people in the hospital using my Mandarin.’ So, the big success is broadening their vision. Before you become anything, you need to know it exists. You need to know that it is a possibility for you and that’s what we’re doing.
TSL: If one of our readers wanted to help your cause, how could they do so?
AJ: I think the biggest thing we need is volunteers. There’s a lot of us who come from blue collar households. I was raised by my grandparents. I didn’t get my passport until I was 26. A lot of us grew up like that, but we have different lives now. We’ve seen things. What I would ask of your readership is to reach out to these students and help them. Go on our website at glpny.org. We’re looking for mentors, we’re looking for volunteers, and that’s what really helps us build this mission we’re trying to accomplish.
The My Dream Speaks Gala is an annual fundraiser designed to provide access for socially disadvantaged public school students to succeed in a globalized world through foreign language education.
This year's event helped raise over $125,000 to provide world language programs to elementary school students in New York City
For more information on the Global Language Project, please visit http://www.glpny.org.