Students at Lebanon Trail High School recently got the rare opportunity to connect with a head of state – and not just any head of state. Costa Rican Vice President Epsy Campbell is the first woman of African descent to serve in that role in all of Latin America.
Campbell has gained notoriety for her advocacy on behalf of women’s rights and racial equality. She was featured in El Sol, a Scholastic classroom magazine for students studying Spanish.
Students in teacher Kimberly Church’s Spanish class read about Campbell in the magazine and extended their learning by conducting research and creating presentations about Campbell’s life and career.
The students were so inspired by Campbell, Church reached out to her via Twitter to see if she would be willing to connect with them online. To Church’s surprise and delight, Campbell agreed!
During their conversation via Skype, students took turns asking Campbell questions in Spanish. They asked about her success, including her motivation and advice for students about how to overcome opposition.
"The first and most important thing is that your internal strength will drive forward, the goals that you created. Opposition is the best form of affirming what our own goals are and affirms where we want to go... Never allow others who don’t have purpose, take us away from building and changing the world. When we manage to convince ourselves of what we can do, we will stop having to convince the rest. Obstacles are opportunities to strengthen ourselves for the battle."
Students say they were nervous for the virtual meeting, but also honored and excited to be speaking with the vice president.
“As a high school student, we always read about inspiring people or see them on TV. I never thought I would be able to talk with one. It is definitely something that I will not forget and look back on in the future,” said sophomore Shriya Bangaru. “I feel like she wants us to always have a positive mindset even if people are trying to bring us down.”
It was also a great opportunity for students to practice their Spanish speaking and comprehension skills. They were impressed by their own ability to understand most, if not all, of what Campbell shared.
“It really put into perspective how much we’ve learned and how far Spanish can take us,” said sophomore Bethany Abebe.