Spanish students at Johnstown High School showed their support and sympathy for Newtown, Conn., students and families recently by sending bilingual Christmas cards.
"Our Spanish 2 and 4 students recently spent class time doing something for others," said Spanish teacher Tina Blackburn, who has been substituting for Spanish teacher Tracey Cahill. "They created bilingual Christmas cards for the children and community of Newtown, Conn. They were hoping that these beautiful hand-made cards would let the community know that Johnstown-Monroe High School students were thinking of them and hoping for a better tomorrow."
On Dec. 14, a gunman fatally shot 20 children and six adults and wounded two adults at Newtown's Sandy Hook School.
"Our Spanish teacher was in tears when she heard about it," sophomore Elizabeth Allender said.
She said the entire school sent condolences to Sandy Hook, but she and her Spanish classmates took the additional step to write cards to Newtown students who were in English and Spanish.
"We wanted to let them know that they were in our hearts," Allender said. "It was extremely upsetting."
Classmate Cameron West agreed.
"We wanted to reach out to everyone," West said. "We wanted to tell them there were people all around the world thinking of them. Everyone's on their side."
West said he and fellow Spanish students wrote their Spanish messages larger on their cards and then translated the messages to English beneath the Spanish text.
"We definitely learned a few new (Spanish) words," he said, adding that the cards were sent the Monday following the incident. "It was really neat."
Blackburn said she knew her students would need some sort of help after the incident. She said creating the bilingual Christmas cards helped them focus their shock into something positive.
Blackburn said she saw many Latino names among Newtown residents and school employees.
"That's what inspired me," she said, adding that she didn't want to assume many Latino names meant Newtown is strongly Spanish speaking, but the bilingual cards seemed like a good way to reach as many people associated with Sandy Hook as possible.
"People's emotional language is what you want to reach them in," Blackburn said. "Why not do both? This was also a lesson in humanity."
Students seemed to find the project therapeutic.
"It was good to do this project and incorporate our learning into sending our love and compassion to their school," Spanish student Allison Zink said.
Blackburn said she was please that the students weren't just willing but also eager to do the project.
"We had glitter everywhere," she said, "and that was fine."
"People's emotional language is what you want to reach them in. Why not do both? This was also a lesson in humanity."