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Trinidad and Tobago delegation visit the Arlington ISD Multilingual Welcome Center
Posted in on May 2, 2024

World languages department welcomes visitors from Trinidad and Tobago

Arlington ISD’s Multilingual Welcome Center gets visitors from all over the world. But it probably hasn’t received many from Trinidad and Tobago before. Until last Friday.

That’s when the United States State Department brought a delegation from the Caribbean country to Arlington specifically for a visit and tour of the welcome center.

The Multilingual Welcome Center is exactly as advertised: welcoming. The staff are friendly, and the décor is cheerful. There are toys for kids and snacks and coffee for anyone waiting.

“We help students who come to this country for the first time,” said Dr. Grace del Valle, Arlington ISD world languages coordinator. “This is very often the first place they see the U.S. education system. We need to make sure that when they see us, they feel welcome.”

That’s exactly the way they made the delegation from Trinidad and Tobago feel during their visit.

The ten-member delegation hailed from various fields, from a school supervisor to government officials. Most are trying to understand how to accommodate an influx of Venezuelans into their island country.

“I’m looking for practical ways to integrate migrant students,” said Ayanna Naila Valere Nero, the senior operations manager for the Catholic Education Board of Management in Trinidad and Tobago.

“I’m here to understand what you do so we can take all the best things to Trinidad and Tobago,” another said to del Valle.

They listened closely as several members of the district’s world languages team shared how the welcome center and the world languages department help new students and their families adjust to their new schools and life in the U.S.

But how did the Trinbagonians end up in Arlington ISD’s Multilingual Welcome Center in the first place?

“They [the Dallas/Fort Worth World Affairs Council] emailed me, and at first I thought this was a mistake,” del Valle said.

Del Valle emailed back to make sure she was really the one they meant to contact, and the reply was that “the people from Washington wanted you because of your work.”

Those people from Washington are from the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), a professional exchange program. Through short-term exchanges, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields visit and develop lasting relationships with their American counterparts.

“The U.S. Department of State and non-profits set up the program,” said Leo Wollenborg, retired from the Foreign Service and now a Washington, D.C.-based State Department contractor assigned to travel with the Trinidad and Tobago delegation. “The program goes back to 1940.”

In this case, the non-profit partner with the IVLP was the Dallas/Fort Worth World Affairs Council, which set up the Arlington visit.

The delegation started their visit in New York, and after Texas they traveled to Los Angeles.

“We’ve heard about welcome centers but hadn’t seen one,” said Anna Meenawatee Singh, the director of curriculum planning and development in Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Education. “So, this was good.”

Learn more about Arlington ISD’s Multilingual Welcome Center.