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Concordia Language Villages: Bemidji students earn CLV scholarships

Twice every summer, roughly 2,000 people gather at Waldsee, the German Language Village in Concordia Language Villages to celebrate Internaional Day.

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Fifteen of the 18 Bemidji STARTALK grant recipets from the Portuguese Language Camp, Mar e Floresta, pose during the International Day festival Friday. Concordia Language Villages celebrates I-Day twice every summer. This event had 10 different language camps. Pioneer Photo/Delaney Daly

Twice every summer, roughly 2,000 people gather at Waldsee, the German Language Village in Concordia Language Villages to celebrate Internaional Day.

The International Day festival is open and free to anyone, and aims to celebrate cultural diversity and inform the public of the cultural immersion programs Concordia has to offer.

Concordia had its last I-Day festival of the summer Friday, Aug. 12. Music, shouting and laughter rang throughout Waldsee from 1:15-5:15 p.m. as people bustled around different kiosks, sang village songs and frequented the village art show. There was plenty to do: dances, games, and other activities were available to anyone wanting to join. The World Cup soccer tournament took place on the Waldsee soccer grounds, while the Global Market attracted villagers and guests with different foods and items.

The opening ceremony on I-day induced the 2011 Concordia Language Village theme: "Become the Change." Each village preformed a short song or cheer.

Among the 10 languages represented Friday, the small group from Mar e Floresta, the Portuguese Language Village, chanted loudly to their peers. Clad in bright green shirts, the villagers at Mar e Floresta beamed at their surroundings. Most had not thought that they would have a chance to be a part of Concordia Language Villages this year.

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The Portuguese language camp at Concordia has a small number of villagers; 18 of those students are from the Bemidji schools, Schoolcraft, Trek North, and Bemidji High School. And 18 of those students were able to go to Mar e Floresta on full or part scholarships.

Eighteen scholarships for one camp acts out a win-win situation. Minnesota has had the STARTALK government grant, a grant investing in the world's most critical languages. This year, Portuguese was introduced in the span of world critical languages.

"The heightened importance of Brazil brought Portuguese to critical world level," said Kristen Addison-Downs, Mar e Floresta dean.

Addison-Downs said Concordia applied for the grant this year for Mar e Floresta.

The 18 students from the Bemidji area were able to receive scholarships to participate in the CLV experience.

"We wanted to bring it back to the community, and the kids have been awesome," said Addison-Downs.

The grant includes either four- or two-week immersions in Mar e floresta, and two follow-up weekends later in the year.

Specifically, reaching students in rural areas who wouldn't normally be able to attend Concordia has had its benefits.

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"It's so exciting," said Cosme, a 10th grader at Trek North, who had never spoken Portuguese before going to Mar e Floresta. "At first I was really confused, but I'm understanding more and more of the language."

Cosme said sharing cultural experiences with new friends has given him the drive to continue at Concordia Language Villages next year. Cosme attended the four-week credit session.

Raimundo, a senior at Bemidji High School, said he had already learned Spanish, but wanted to learn another language.

"This is my first time at CLV," he said, "and it's a blast."

"This scholarship is the only way I would have been able to go," he added. "I got lucky."

Mar e Floresta is a relatively new language village, this year being its fourth year open. Because of its newness, the camp is smaller than the more established villages like French, German and Spanish.

The size, however, was a boon for Bemidji High School senior Adelina.

"I liked that it was small," she said. "I got to know everyone, and it was a lot more intimate."

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Adelina, who also has high school credit in Spanish, will add Portuguese to her repertoire with the four-week credit program at Mar e Floresta.

Wanting to travel, Adelina wishes to continue her study of the Portuguese language.

To some, Concordia Language Villages may be merely a fun and interesting retreat to different foods, music and language. Others take the mission of Concordia more seriously, seeing it as a step towards a more complete understanding of the different cultures around our world.

Dave and Audrey Olson, members of the National Advisory Board are some of the many people who are interested in the future of CLV.

Avid supporters of Concordia, the Olsons have helped fund the various events CLV has to offer in hopes that the interest of youth for foreign understanding will always continue.

"The funds used to support these festivities are self perpetuating," said Dave Olson. "We are hoping it goes on forever."

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