Alumni Spotlight is an ongoing blog series that features interviews with a variety of Darlington alumni about their careers and the impact their Darlington experience had on their lives.
This week, I am excited to share a Q&A with Emily (Grizzard) Valdès ('11).
Emily is a certified and experienced Spanish teacher with a passion for travel, experiential learning, and cultural exchange. She graduated from Elon University with a degree in Spanish and is working on her masters in education. She and her husband have started a company in Chattanooga, Tenn. called Language South and a summer camp called El Pueblo Spanish Camp.
Were you a day or boarding student?
I was a day student and a “Dar-baby.” I grew up in Rome and went to Darlington from Pre-K through graduation.
Where did you go after graduating from Darlington?
After graduating from Darlington, I attended Elon University where I majored in Spanish and minored in Psychology. For five summers following my graduation from Darlington, I worked at the Concordia Language Villages Spanish immersion camp in Minnesota. It was while working there that I met my husband, Teo, and developed my passion for language teaching and youth development. After getting married in December of 2014, Teo and I spent five months traveling around South and Central America, getting to know more about the cultures of the Spanish-speaking world, and practicing and improving our Spanish. In the fall of 2015, we moved to Chattanooga, Tenn. to be closer to our families, and we both found jobs teaching Spanish. While we both love teaching, we missed our experiences at Spanish camp and began dreaming about bringing an immersion camp program to our region. In 2017 we decided to make this dream a reality. We created Language South and began working on our first program, El Pueblo Spanish Camp. El Pueblo Spanish Camp is a residential Spanish immersion summer camp for kids and teens currently in grades 4-9 who want to start or continue their Spanish learning in a fun overnight camp setting.
How did Darlington influence the path you’ve taken?
I really first discovered Spanish in the classes I took at Darlington. My love of language learning and cultural exchange was also inspired by the many dorm students I got to meet from many different countries all over the world.
What do you like most about the career you have chosen?
I love getting to help people, especially kids and teens, discover a love for language learning and cultural exchange. By starting our own language immersion camp program, we get to help create a supportive and welcoming camp environment while also helping kids and teens become learners and lovers of languages and cultures.
Where can we find out more about how to get involved with your camp?
We’d love for Darlington students and families to get involved with our camp as campers or counselors! You can find out more about Language South and El Pueblo Spanish Camp by visiting our website and our Facebook page.