Somos Holy Cross
Exterior of school.
Holy Cross welcome sign.
Kids exit their cars, are greeted, and enter school.
Greeter: Have a nice day!
Child: You too.
A teacher scans children’s temperatures.
Teacher: So a really beautiful thing happened here at Holy Cross. I knew it would change our school. I had no idea that in the first year it would excite everybody so much.
Teacher: Dual language immersion has shown time and time again through studies the benefits that it has on lifelong learning.
A child sits on the floor.
Teacher: Y cuantos años tiene Sofia?
Teacher: We are going to, to do the absolute best we can to celebrate all the cultural diversity that we have in our school.
Kids are in a classroom.
Teacher: And kids were excited about it.
Professor over Zoom: This program gives the school a distinct identity. This is something to help live Catholicism in an increasingly diverse world.
A priest conducts Mass.
Children sit on the floor in a classroom.
Child: Tengo seis años. Y yo me encanta la escuela.
Teacher: Holy Cross was such a great fit for everything that this program envisioned. Nothing worthwhile is easy.
Holy Cross newspapers are seen.
Teacher: And I think what we’re doing here, it’s hard work and it’s still worthwhile.
Teacher: We always tell the kids in the bilingual program, you have a superpower. You can speak in two languages.
A child in a Batman masks speaks to the camera.
Kevin: Yo tengo seis años y mi nombre es Kevin.
Black screen. Text: Somos Holy Cross.
South Bend skyline.
South Bend street signs.
Angie Budzinski, former Holy Cross principal: This has been a story of South Bend. It has traditionally welcomed the immigrant to the city. And so I really feel like as as South Bend resident, what a good way to honor who South Bend has always been.
Juan Constantino, La Casa de Amistad: As you see the population continue to increase, the increase coincides with the population of the Latino and immigrant community.
Exteriors of the community buildings.
Juan: As you’re on the west side of town, you see streets like Pulaski or Caziosco. One of our big noted parks is Pulaski Park, which speaks to the roots of the Polish immigrant community that once heavily resided on this side of town. But because of now, its new immigrant roots within the Latinx community, they’ve dedicated the pavilion in the fields to Dolores Huerta, a longtime activist and advocate in our country.
Juan speaks to the camera.
Juan: I think South Bend is in its own right. It’s a unique gem in the state of Indiana.
Archival pictures of South Bend.
Angie voiceover: I just know my family emigrated from, from Europe. And, and thank God, there were opportunities for them to learn, whether it be learn a language of English itself, but also an opportunity to really get a good solid education and then ultimately become good solid citizens.
Archival photos of immigrants.
Angie: And that richness that they brought, I just see us continuing that now with new immigrants from other areas here in the United States. We have to celebrate the fact that we have this rich diversity. We feel very strongly that we’re just getting back to the roots of what Catholic education always did for people who were immigrating to the United States. We just happen to have now more students who might be emigrating from Central and South America. And that’s wonderful.
Interior of the school walls and classroom.
Clare Roach, Holy Cross immersion director: So a really beautiful thing happened here at Holy Cross. First and foremost, it was the school community here that recognized they needed to re-imagine how they served in in a particular way, the local neighborhood here in South Bend, and the school board began thinking about immersion, specifically Spanish immersion, as a programmatic strategy into that, that fit very well with the future of the school.
Exterior shots of Notre Dame campus including the dome and the grotto.
Angie: So when we first started thinking about the immersion program, we formed a partnership with the University of Notre Dame’s Ace Alliance Program.
Clare: There were a couple units at Notre Dame, the Institute for Latino Studies and the Alliance for Catholic Education, specifically the English as a new language or ENL program that had a particular interest in two-way dual language schools, Catholic schools. Within months, a feasibility study was conducted. And soon thereafter, we had our first year of articulation of the dual language program.
A Zoom interview with an ND professor is shown.
Luis Fraga, UND Institute for Latino Studies: Education has always been an interest of mine because that’s a political science professor, education has bottom line measures of impact.
Screenshots of Luis’ papers.
Luis: You may know about how two-way immersion programs work. Half the students are predominantly Spanish-speaking or bilingual.
Interior shots of the kids in school.
Luis: Half the students are predominantly English-speaking. I prefer a 90, 10 model, wherein the first two years pre-kindergarten in kindergarten students are taught in Spanish 90 percent of the time, and English 10 percent of the time, all of the students. And then you go from there to 80-20 and then 70- 30, and then 60-40. And then ultimately 50-50. By the fourth, fifth grade.
The teacher instructs a classroom in Spanish. She claps and the kids count in Spanish.
Clare: We had really tremendous expertise at Notre Dame that was really well fitted for what Holy Cross was trying to do and in the type of school that Holy Cross is.
Kids sit in pews in church.
Luis: I was giving a talk after Mass one day about what the program while just before it got started. About what the program was, what the aspirations were, and so forth, we thought it was very important that the parishioners know and have a chance to ask questions. And this grandmother, I say, she looked like a grandmother, and she had two small children with her. And she came up to me and she said, I’m not sure about this.
Closeup of books called “Vivos en Cristo.”
Luis: I understand what you’re saying, but I’m not sure about this. I think kids who come from families who don’t speak English should learn English. And I said, you know what, that’s exactly what this program is about. It’s about helping them learn English better than ever before and learn their native language better than they might ever have learned it.
Luis: And she takes a couple of steps back and she says, you mean, if there were a program like this, when I was a little girl, I would have been able to speak Polish to my grandmother because I was never able to speak to my grandmother because she only spoke Polish. And I said, this is exactly what this program is designed to do. She got tears in her eyes and she said, I’m behind you, I’m with you. This is a good program.
Exterior of school. A flag waves. Kids sit at desks in a classroom. Faint audio of a teacher reading off a Spanish book.
Teacher: Otra vez.
Y el agua limpia —
uno, dos, y tres.
Al terminada día —
A student writes.
Interview with Clare Roach.
Clare: If you walk into one of our two-way Spanish immersion classrooms, one of the first things you’ll notice is it looks just like any another of our classrooms. We walk into a first grade classroom. You’ll see students adding and subtracting. You’ll see students reading, doing science projects.
Kids work on projects and learn to count.
Clare: But some of the practices that you will find are that teachers are being very intentional about building bridges to comprehension. Because of course, our students aren’t getting translations. No, the entire instruction is in Spanish.
A teacher instructs a math lesson in Spanish.
Teacher: Y setenta. O setenta.
Three kids say: La otra y veinte.
Teacher: Tu entiendes? Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siente, ocho.
Child: Uno, dos, tres.
Clare: It really is a very powerful model of learning. It’s incredible to watch happen before you. It’s just extraordinary what our kids have learned in such a short amount of time.
Annie Borjas, Holy Cross principal: Teaching in the immersion program is, it brings its own unique challenges, but also its own excitement. I started at Holy Cross as the pre-K teacher. So the first teacher in the immersion program, it’s a lot of fun because you get to start with only half of your class really understanding what you’re saying.
Kids play on the ground.
Annie: And so a lot of it is, is intentionally building vocabulary. So what that looks like in the immersion program is all of those things you’re doing in Spanish first, which requires a little bit different of a focus. For example, when, when teaching a child how to read in English, you focus on individual sounds. But in Spanish, you start focusing on syllables. And then, it’s a lot of theater.
A song plays and children dance.
Annie: A lot of acting, a lot of dancing, a lot of singing, a lot of engaging students and exciting ways.
Clare: We aim to have approximately balanced numbers of children who speak English at their dinner table when they go home. And children who speak Spanish at the dinner table when they go home. And the idea is that both of those subsets of children are enriched by the expertise and the experience and the skill set that the other brings to the classroom.
Kids hop in the classroom.
Annie: And because they’re kids, they’re comfortable, they’re excited, they just want to be part of everything. And so if speaking Spanish lets you be part of everything, then that’s what they do.
A teacher points to phrases and sounds out the vowels.
Luis is interviewed.
Luis: By the fifth grade, students are speaking Spanish and English. All students, English-dominant and Spanish-dominant, without an accent, as fluently as anyone who speaks English or Spanish.
Annie speaks to the camera in a classroom.
Annie: By purposely building those connections between the two languages, we’re hoping to be able to help them become biliterate, bilingual, bicultural as well. Because our Spanish speakers come from all over the world. We currently have teachers from Paraguay, Mexico, Chile, Honduras, España, Venezuela, lots of different Spanish-speaking countries represented here in our teaching staff. And Spanish has become part of kind of what the whole school does, whether you’re in the immersion track or in the traditional track.
Exterior of La Casa de Amistad. Sign reads: No human is illegal.
Juan speaks to the camera: The mission of La Casa de Amistad is to empower the Latino, the Hispanic community through cultural advocacy, educational services, and a welcoming bilingual environment. And my role here at the center is development coordinator.
Juan works at his desk.
Juan: So essentially it’s some of the fundraising and event coordinating, but I also oversee our city ID programs in South Bend, Plymouth, Goshen, and hopefully soon in Elkhart.
Juan speaks to the camera.
Juan: We were founded in 1973 and we were founded to help the migrant community that was in our area. So we had a lot of migrant farm workers who were in town.
Exterior of the center, with murals and photos.
Juan: And so our original founders and Fr. John Failin said, you know, they’ve got their kids and the kids aren’t, they need to catch up in schooling. So let’s, let’s put a center together. Let’s put a space together. We can help tutor some of these students. So initially it started with working with teens whose parents were migrant farm workers. Then the families settled here. So then we needed a preschool. And then after we had the preschool, kids are getting older, so we needed after-school tutoring. After-school tutoring began, and then it was like, you know what, we need English classes. And then it was citizenship courses and then legal immigration clinic. But ultimately, we try to find ways and through our programming to empower our community. Being the hub, we essentially become the Latino Google. Folks call us and say, Hey, what’s the number to the bilingual department of the school corporation, instead of calling the school corporation and saying transfer me to your bilingual department.
Interior shots of the center’s art.
Juan: Or because of red-lining going on in the area and all the houses being rented. You know, in our community, folks are saying, you know, what rights do I have? Really, it becomes a little bit of everything for the Latino community.
Juan speaks to the camera.
Juan: But me, myself as an immigrant, as someone who came here when I was five years old, growing up, my family came to this food pantry. So the food pantry has been a pillar of this space and it’s great for it to come full circle for me and for me to be here for now four years to continue to serve our community, my community and ultimately my family.
Exterior of the school. A statue of May.
Angie, speaking to the camera: You know, our fundamental mission is to give glory to God through the total education of every Holy Cross students. But we’d look at that through a diversity lens.
Kids play during recess.
Angie: And really I’ve kind of prided ourselves on the fact that the school is as diverse as it is.
Statues within a church.
Luis: It was a way to build what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has called the challenge of establishing intercultural communities, of understanding. Not just respect, not just tolerance, but deep understanding. Where through the children, you help parents come together to understand the richness of each other’s drive to understand their faith better. And the unlimited possibilities that might exist for families to grow in ways that they never thought of.
Kids file into Mass and fill the pews.
Angie, speaking to the camera: I knew it would change our school. I had no idea that in the first year it would excite everybody so much.
Barb Echard, junior high English teacher: I was very happy to see it. I was actually pretty envious because I would have loved for my kids who are in their 20s now to have been able to have the program.
Photos hang on the wall.
A teacher speaks to the camera.
Julie Van Meter, music and fourth grade teacher: Honest to goodness, it has breathed new life into the school. There is a, there’s a sense of wonder. There’s a sense of like something big is happening and just happiness. I think it’s, I think it’s the coolest thing that I’ve ever seen.
Clare: I think it’s really transformed teaching and learning across the school building, not just in our immersion classrooms.
Teachers sit next to students in class.
Julie: And even being on the traditional side gives me the, I, I get to watch what happens with all of the kids that are in that immersion program and the teachers that are teaching it. And I can stand on the outside and just watch it happen. I once had a very wise person told me that the way to get along in the world is adapt and overcome. So you see it’s all the possibilities that happen just because you’re doing something different.
A teacher sits with kids and instructs them in Spanish.
A sign reads: Zone 1: Leo solitario/a.
Luis: But it’s grounded. Not easy always, but it’s grounded.
Teacher: Qué dice?
Teacher: La una tiene un bebe. Sorpresa! Bebe! La luna, el foto.
Angie: If you would have told me in three years time that we would have made the strides we we’ve made already, I’d have thought, no, it’ll take it’ll take until we get to eighth grade. Not true. It made a profound effect. It’s really neat.
Interior shots of a church.
Angie: I really do feel like we have his blessing because we are doing exactly what Catholic education began in this country to be. We’re just getting back to who we are. And that feels great.
Black screen. Text: Director/editor: Peter Lacopo. Assistant director/producer: Frank Lacopo. Faculty advisor: Susanne Schwibs. Creative consultant: Bryce Reif. Equipment provided by: Gene’s Camera Store. IU Media School. Big Idea Company, LLC.
Text: Special thanks to Holy Cross School and Paris. Ann and Frankl Lacopo. Lou and Melinda Pierce. Steve Lotter. Nicole Martins and Jim Krause. Fr. Jim Fenstermaker, CSC. La Casa de Amistad. South Bend History Museum. University of Notre Dame.
“Somos Holy Cross” documents an exciting dual language/immersion program at Holy Cross School in South Bend, Indiana. With a partnership with the University of Notre Dame, the program offers students a chance to learn both English and Spanish. The changing and enriching environment within the South Bend Community ultimately makes Holy Cross a great fit for this program.
The film was nominated for a National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Central Great Lakes Chapter Student Production Award in the Non-Fiction Long Form category.