There has never been another time in the history of our country when making the effort to study a second language and its related culture has been as valuable as it is today.
This is the core message students at Buckeye Local High School hear from their foreign language teachers as the students make an individual choice about what other language they will study during their respective high school career.
The possibilities that can come within reach of those who learn a second language can be virtually limitless, according to Buckeye Local High School Foreign Language Club advisors Maddalena Rinaldi and Bonita Soos.
Foreign Language Club members prepared more than 30 displays for the annual fair at Buckeye Local High School. Dressed for the occasion in traditional Indian attire were Laureen Highwart (left) and Brittany Feher (right).
The women are looking forward to an upcoming 12-day long trip to the countries where the three languages taught at the local high school are spoken: Italy, Spain and France.
The school has three foreign language instructors: Rinaldi, Soos and Liz Haggarty.
Teachers across Ohio instructing classes in foreign languages are directed to design their lesson plan structures targeting the following five mandated central points: communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities.
According to these local language specialists, the most difficult of those goals to meet is the directive to strongly connect with the surrounding communities.
Over the course of the last six years a popular plan to connect the foreign language study effort beyond the walls of the school has come through the Buckeye Local High School Foreign Language Club's which hosts an International Culture Fair.
Though membership in the club is not open to freshmen, its membership roster still includes more than 130 students - making it the largest entity among all the school's community of clubs, organizations and even its athletic teams.
It has been a resounding success each year, seeing growth in all areas of the event, according to Rinaldi and Soos, evidence of the popularity of the school's foreign language program as a whole.
"The world is becoming a smaller and smaller place all the time," observed Rinaldi, herself a native of Italy.
Both she and Soos take great pride in each student's individual contribution to the annual fair, noting the fair's content changes year to year, reflecting the limitless possibilities for displays and demonstrations highlighting a unique aspects of the culture of various countries such as foods, dress, music, dance, and more.
This year the event's displays and demonstrations included representations of the following regions, countries and cultures: North America - Canada, Nova Scotia, Native American, The United States of America, Mexico, Aztecs and The Mayas; Caribbean Islands: Cuba and Haiti; South America: Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Brazil; Europe: Spain, France, The Impressionist Movement, Mardi Gras, Ireland, Scotland, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Czech Republic; Asia: Kuwait, India, Indonesia; Africa: Morocco, Egypt, and The Republic of Congo.
The second phase of the annual event this year included an array of performances including those put forward by several of the current group of exchange students attending Buckeye Local High School.
Currently the student population at Buckeye Local High School includes foreign exchange students from the following countries: Italy, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Norway, and Switzerland.
Traditional dances performed during the recent cultural education event at Buckeye Local included: the Can Can, the Salsa, the Swing Dance, the Children's Dance, a Russian Ballet, a Polka, and the Native American dances - The Shawl Dance and the Warrior Dance.
Officers of the Foreign Language Club thoroughly enjoy the process of learning other languages, and the opportunities it can connect them to in order that they can - in as much a firsthand way as possible - experience details of different cultures, and life in countries other than our own.
They see the foreign language education at Buckeye Local High School as essential to their academic, professional, social and cultural development as they begin moving closer to adulthood and making career choices which will, in all likelihood, have a long lasting impact on their life and the direction it ultimately goes.
French III student Melissa Faulkner of Rayland plans to put her advanced language skills to work helping her earn a teaching degree.
Amanda Cefus of Dillonvale, also a student in the French III class, enjoys the personal satisfaction that comes when a student of languages finds they are able to truly begin to communicate - to hold conversations - with a person from another country: one where a local student's second language is spoken as the nation's language.
Tiffany Lengyel, of Adena, is a student in the high school's Spanish IV class.
She plans to attend Franciscan University of Steubenville and is already looking forward to joining student mission teams to other countries.
Her plans for a career as a nurse practitioner have long included awareness of just how much more access she will have - on both a personal and professional level - when able to bring along her advanced second language skills.
"Americans are often very provincial," she offered. "We as a society need to be open to learning more about other countries and cultures."
Candidly, she chose to stay with the study of Spanish because she sees a need for Spanish speaking skills among trained medical personnel on a national and international basis.
Her teacher whole heartedly supports her planned application for the second language skills she is developing.
Brianna Roach of New Alexandria is a member of the French III class. She sees her study of this language as helping to expand her personal and professional opportunities as she begins to pursue a degree in physical therapy.
She expects her study of this romance language to make any future studies of Latin and medical terminology in general a comfortable fit for her as she plans to build on the skills she is acquiring while at Buckeye Local.
Roach has also found that the unique fare available to all attending the school based club's annual event has broadened her willingness to try foods she is not familiar with.
A reality she continues to enjoy as she considers herself a "picky" eater under normal circumstances - a habit she knows now can unnecessarily limit her options.
Julie Saunders of Smithfield is a member of the Spanish IV class.
She is planning to pursue a degree in graphic design and photography. She sees her language skills as making it easier for her to effectively communicate with others, as she has plans to reach well beyond the local region for educational and career opportunities.
Documenting the process of bringing the International Culture Fair to life with the help of her photography skills has already availed her the opportunity to connect her two loves: Spanish and photography, for the benefit of her education.
"I was given the assignment to photograph this event for a class project," she said, proud to bring another aspect to the expanding menu of ways to apply foreign language skills within the local school's offerings.
It is the first of what she hopes will be many opportunities to combine those two personal passions.
Danielle Frakes or Rayland, has a foreign language background which includes the study of two different languages: Spanish IV and French I.
This year's cultural display and demonstration opportunities which came through participation in the club and the recent fair allowed her to strengthen a personal family ancestral connection with the Native American heritage of the Blackfoot tribe.
Her reason for bringing this information to share with others through the fair reflected a point of view both her teachers readily supported, as did her fellow Foreign Language Club officers who had gathered for a brief discussion about the recent success of the complex event, and the importance of expanding knowledge of languages and cultures.
"You can't appreciate what you do not know."