On June 18th 2013, thirty-nine Spanish Immersion 8th grade students from West Sylvan (our largest group ever!) will depart for Panama on a community service trip with AFS.  

They will arrive in Panama City where they will attend an orientation prior to departing to their host communities.  The students will be divided into different host communities.  The AFS chapter in Volcán in the province of Chiriqui will host some of our students.

While in Panama, the students will stay with volunteer host families.  They will receive two hours of language instruction every day and work on a community service project that makes an important contribution to their host community.  After saying good-bye to their host families, the students will return to Panama City for 4 days of excursions.  Together, they will tour Panama City, spend a day at a tropical beach, take a canoe trip in the Embera Reserve to learn about the indigenous Embera community and tour the Panama Canal before returning home on July 5th. 

The home stay study program provides students with opportunities to develop cross-cultural understanding and to use their language skills out of the classroom.  The culmination of nine years of being in a Spanish Immersion program, this experience is life-changing for many of our students:  For some students it is the first time they travel to a foreign country.  For other students, it is the first time they travel without their families, and for many students, it is the first time they are called upon to use their Spanish skills in a real world setting.   The experience builds both confidence and the desire to travel and experience new cultures.  Alumni of the K-12 Spanish Immersion program often cite the capstone trip as a catalyst for their pursuit of higher education in Spanish, other languages, travel and International Studies.