Promoting Peace Through Sports and Spanish

By Beacon Staff

Venecia Bautista Taveras believes there are strong ties between education and a more peaceful world. An informed youth is less likely to fear a foreign culture. And while there is no cure-all educational strategy, there are steps. Bautista wants to be a step.

Bautista is organizing a summer camp in Whitefish and Kalispell that focuses on Spanish language skills, sports and cultural tutorials. The first week of camp began on July 6 and runs through July 9 at Muldown Elementary School in Whitefish.

The remaining camp schedule is: July 13-16 and July 27-30 at Muldown, and Aug. 3-6, Aug. 10-13 and Aug. 17-20 at Woodland Park in Kalispell. The camp is for ages 7-12 and is held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. No prior Spanish language classes are required. The cost is $120 per week.

With an extensive background in recreational management, Bautista is no stranger to running children’s camps. From Toronto to resorts in British Columbia, her repertoire includes golf and swim camps, always with an emphasis on active lifestyles.

Spanish is Bautista’s native tongue and she teaches the language in Kalispell, so it is only natural that she would incorporate her linguistic skills into a youth recreational program. Combining sports, cultural education and linguistics – it’s a progressive and original concept for the Flathead.

“There isn’t anything like this around,” Bautista said.

Born in the Dominican Republic, where she lived until moving to Canada at the age of 13, Bautista speaks flawless English and Spanish. She works as an interpreter at Flathead County District Court, helping Spanish speakers understand their rights, charges and any other legal implications.

She also teaches at Kalispell’s Casa Español, which offers beginner, intermediate and advanced courses. Her services are grouped together under the business name Amiga Española Solutions.

There aren’t many dull moments at Bautista’s camp. At 9 a.m., kids begin a vocabulary lesson, immediately followed by a game involving the words they just learned. Then they have an hour-long activity session. Sports include kickball, soccer, bocce ball and baseball.

From 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., there is a lunch hour, though the games continue. Kids are asked to bring their own lunch. Following the midday food break, Bautista leads a half-hour cultural lesson, focusing on a different Spanish-speaking country each day. She teaches kids about a country’s customs, food, sports, clothes and other cultural talking points, though she plans to avoid religion. They also play a game related to the lesson.

“I’m emphasizing an understanding of other cultures,” Bautista said. “It’s important for people to understand each other’s culture and then they’re less likely to be scared of what they don’t know.”

Finally, the day is capped off with a half hour of lawn games and an hour more of sports, including a 15-minute yoga session. Also, two days of each week feature an arts and crafts time slot, giving kids a chance to bring home a few handmade souvenirs from the camp.

Campers are beginning to trickle in, though Bautista is still hoping for more. Some weeks only have four or five students booked, and she would like to see closer to 10. She is the sole organizer and instructor of the camp.

“The more kids there are, the more fun it is for them,” Bautista said.

Bautista provides all school supplies, but parents should make sure their kids have appropriate sunscreen and clothing for the hours in the sun, as well as their own lunches. It’s best to register at least a week beforehand. While Bautista is also looking into the feasibility of starting a cultural immersion program that would bring adults on trips to the Dominican Republic, she’s pleased to direct all of her focus now on the kids.

For more information on the camp, call (406) 730-2722 or (406) 260-1432. Bautista can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].

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