Presentation Title

How Two Heritage Language Programs Foster Immigrant-School-Community Engagement in the New Immigrant South

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Abstract or Description

In areas with new and ongoing demographic shifts, many schools and communities are struggling to understand, integrate, and accommodate newcomers (Wortham, Murillo & Hamann, 2002). Cultural differences in school engagement practices are often misinterpreted as disinterest, and are used to bolster false claims about parental involvement (Andrews, 2013; Lee & Oxelson, 2006; Zarate, 2007). In this two-case case study (Yin, 2018), we explore how two community-based heritage language programs (one Chinese, one Spanish) in the shifting Southeast view their roles in fostering program-school-community connections. Moreover, we explore whether/how these programs support ethnically, culturally, and linguistically minoritized families in leveraging their community cultural wealth (Yosso, 2005) to navigate and engage with local P-12 schools and the broader community. Our findings indicate that although both HL programs recognized the importance of family-school-community connections for participating families (especially in providing resources and information), individual approaches differ. The Chinese HL program plays an active role in fostering collaborations with formal schools and increasing parents’ civic engagement and multicultural awareness, whereas the Spanish HL program approaches these goals more indirectly by providing access to resources and information about schools and communities. These findings have implications for educators and policymakers, as they may provide a more nuanced understanding of the new possibilities HL programs provide beyond heritage language preservation. Identity transformation, community engagement, and social justice advocacy, are only a few of the possible benefits to building and strengthening HL-school-community connections. By examining the rich and varied ways in which Chinese and Spanish speaking families take part in school and community activities, we aim to provide a counternarrative that positions these groups as active participants in their children’s education. Examining how ethnically and linguistically minoritized groups draw on their community cultural wealth is especially important for regions with rapidly changing demographics.


Georgia Southern University faculty member, Alexandra Reyes co-presented How Two Heritage Language Programs Foster Immigrant-School-Community Engagement in the New Immigrant South in the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) Conference, March 2022.



American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) Conference


Pittsburgh, PA

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