Biltmore Preparatory Academy (BPA) is home to an internationally recognized Dual Language Spanish Immersion program. At BPA, they believe biliteracy creates opportunities for students to become compassionate, inclusive, global citizens who are equipped to be successful and competitive in today’s global markets. Students are empowered to become biliterate in Spanish and English, as well as have the opportunity to earn high school World Language credit, the Biliteracy Award of Distinction, and participate in exchange programs in Spanish-speaking countries.

A highlight of the exchange initiative is the annual excursion to Mexico, where this year, 20 students and their parents, alongside school administrators, traveled to Hermosillo, Sonora. They engaged with peers and families from Colegio Regis La Salle school, fostering deep cross-cultural connections.

Four fourth-grade students — Norah Uhles, Sebástian Gonzalez, Bella De Mar, and Mason Fulghum — shared their enriching experiences. Each has been part of the Spanish Dual Language program since kindergarten, with some attending the bilingual preschool, Little Big Minds, even earlier.

Upon arriving in Mexico, the BPA group was warmly welcomed by their host families, which was followed by a dinner. The itinerary included a school tour led by their Mexican counterparts, a fun visit to a jump house, and various cultural and recreational activities.

“The welcoming party was my favorite part. Instead of cake, they eat coyotas which reminds me of an Uncrustable and I really liked it. Later, my partner gave me a tour of his school and showed me where they play basketball and the pool, and the gym was really cool. I’ve never seen a school that big,” says Sebástian.

“The partner school is bilingual and speaks both English and Spanish. The models for how we learn languages are different. We got to visit the biggest school in Mexico,” explains Bella.

Students and families were also treated to a day at the beach in Kino Bay and also spent a full day participating in a variety of activities around Hermosillo which was led by their host families.

“My favorite part was going to the food trucks at night and seeing the authentic stores. My favorite food was tacos and corn ‘elote.’ I got to try rolled tacos and they were pretty good and spicy. My family and I love spicy food,” describes Norah.

“Visiting the beach was my favorite experience. We collected shells and got to swim in the ocean. I enjoyed spending time with my partner and their family,” says Mason.

On the last day, students went back to school at Colegio Regis for a morning assembly and flag ceremony in their honor. There were tearful goodbyes before students boarded the bus to return home to Phoenix.

“My family and I want to come back soon to visit my partner and his family again. I loved getting to know my partner as a friend and I really enjoyed the food. We keep in touch by phone, and I can’t wait to visit again,” says Sebástian.

Reflecting on the importance of bilingualism, the students unanimously praised the ability to communicate across cultures. Their experiences in Mexico not only solidified their language skills but also created lasting friendships and a commitment to continue their Spanish education into higher education and their future careers.

This program exemplifies BPA’s dedication to creating a world where communication bridges gaps, friendships transcend borders, and education opens doors to endless possibilities.