Two win Critical Language Scholarships from U.S. State Department
As student coordinator Emily Hackett ’23 kicked off the 11th Annual World Languages Day at Connecticut College to a chorus of “woos” and thumbs up from the local fifth graders in attendance, she noted that the children who attended Conn’s very first World Languages Day in 2011 “are now old enough to attend college themselves.”
When Pablo Tutillo ’13 created and helped organize the inaugural event at the College, his goal was simple enough. He wanted to share his and his fellow scholars’ love and knowledge of language with the New London community.
“Two things that I love are working with kids and learning languages, and I got to do both with this event,” he declared back in 2011.
Thirteen years later, the event returned to campus April 28 after a two-year hiatus due to COVID restrictions. The 11th Annual World Languages Day, organized by the Walter Commons’ Global Learning Lab and the Holleran Center for Community Action, marked a triumph for both Tutillo’s vision of the project and Conn’s commitment to growing the initiative.
“Pablo’s original project has continued to grow and has inspired all of us to continue the traditions he began,” Hackett confirmed.
The collection of enthusiastic and thoughtful New London fifth graders began their day hearing Camel volunteers introduce a few common phrases in a multitude of languages and learning various facts about the number of languages spoken in the world. Then they were divided into four groups to attend workshops helmed by Conn language students. While certainly a group of fifth graders—and thus prone to talking and joking—the students were quick to settle and pay attention. As excited as the College was to host them, it was clear they were even more excited to participate.
“I want to learn Spanish to speak to more of my family,” a student named Barbara explained. “But I’m just very happy to be in any group.”
Each pod got a chance to attend two workshops featuring one of eight different languages. The students discussed Danish, Japanese, Latin or Russian in the first round. Then, after rotating, they encountered seminars on Arabic, French, Greek or Tibetan.
In addition to learning some basics—how to say hi and bye, recite the alphabet and count to 10—each set of students received lessons in the history and cultures of the languages presented. For example, in the Latin group, Caleb Butler ’26 and Melanie Rollins ’26 retold the story of Romulus and Remus and how it led to the naming of Rome. Anna Olivia Vest Nielsen ’26 walked the fifth graders through how Denmark fits in with other Scandinavian countries and how those other languages do and do not resemble Danish. On a bit of a more light-hearted take, Claire Wilke ’25 revealed to students how many types of cheese they might enjoy if they ever visit France.
“I know English, Spanish, Russian and sign language,” said fifth-grader Jamar. “So it’s really fun to learn about history … not just hear how to say ‘Good morning’ again.”
The students weren’t the only ones thrilled with the results. Panagiota Tsiali ’25, on hand to lead the Greek workshop, echoed Tutillo’s words, “I’m so excited to be part of this. I love working with kids.”
For Hackett, the event not only proved a success but helped bring her college experience full circle. She had volunteered at the last World Languages Day before COVID hit and was excited to helm its return in her senior year.
“We tried to do it over Zoom [in 2020], but it just wasn’t the same,” she recalled. “This feels so much better … so great.”