The Impact of Gettysburg College Student Volunteers on Vida Charter School

By Sophie Lange, News Editor

Founding CEO of Vida Charter School (Vida) Dr. April Yetsko, a teacher from the Borough of Gettysburg, felt that the Gettysburg community was split into two worlds: one that spoke Spanish and the other English. Yetsko and the other founders of Vida saw the need to change this by establishing a school that fostered a sense of appreciation for diversity and educated children to become globally-minded.

Executive Director of Vida Christine Miller explained how Yetsko and the founders were looking to create a school with a strong focus on languages and an equal importance on health.

“The vision was to really be a place where all kids were successful in different ways, in an educational system that was using pedagogical practices to support students with hands-on learning in active ways so that they were engaged,” Miller said. “Beyond the bilingual aspect, it was to be a holistic approach to education where every student could come in and thrive in their own way.”

In January 2010, Vida officially opened. After months of applying for grants, gathering signatures and presenting at hearings, Gettysburg’s only bilingual school was established. Miller explained that Vida’s Two-Way Immersion Spanish/English model is intrinsically different from traditional education settings that focus only on English. All of the students attending Vida are emergent multilingual learners. Additionally, the school focuses on hiring diverse faculty to ensure that students feel their identities are represented and also that they are learning from faculty with identities distinct from their own.

From their opening, Vida has received contributions from Gettysburg College students through volunteer work. This has included working directly with students at Vida through tutoring and special learning programs, as well as educational activities such as assistance with projects like the school’s library and garden.

“Vida has been fortunate to partner with individual professors and with the Center for Public Service to build these collaborations,” Miller shared. “Not only do these real world experiences help our students think about how to make the world a better place, but the interaction with college students hopefully excites them to pursue college learning in their future.”

Currently, the College’s students assist in running a Dungeons and Dragons club, maintaining the school’s garden and offering a range of extracurricular programs. Current Principal of Vida Elana Nashelsky also expressed that the school benefits from their relationship with Casa de la Cultura of Adams County, a nonprofit that promotes the cultural rights of immigrants and has Gettysburg students volunteer through the College’s Center for Public Service (CPS).

CPS Program Coordinator for Vida Isabelle Stehle ’26 explained that she was drawn to Vida because she felt their mission of providing students with a well-rounded education aligned with her values.

“Being a STEM scholar at the college, we talked a lot about sharing what we know and what we have learned with other people, in that case when it comes to scientific discoveries/knowledge. But I feel that it applies to all aspects of education, where if you have a skill or some other knowledge, you should be actively sharing that with those who do not know those skills,” Stehle said.

Stehle’s passion for STEM and desire to bring more scientific opportunities to Vida led her to begin Girls Who Code, which aims to empower students to explore computer science.

“I think the most rewarding part is getting to truly know the community and become a member of it,” Stehle said. “Anytime I go to the school and see some of the students in Girls Who Code, and they recognize me, it brings me so much joy. They express how much they are looking forward to the club on Fridays, and I get so excited to see them excited.”

Stehle expressed that the relationships she has with Vida’s administration have helped her feel like part of the community, particularly in her collaboration with Nashelsky.

“She has allowed me to make mistakes and grow into my leadership role as well as provide support for all my big ideas. She has truly made me feel welcomed into the school, and I am forever grateful for her,” Stehle said.

When asked about the relationship between Gettysburg College and Vida, Stehle highlighted the bond between the two schools: “As much as Vida benefits from the connection with Gettysburg college, the college benefits just as much.”

“I am grateful to all Gettysburg College students who have spent time at Vida and who have shared themselves and their passions with the children here,” Nashelsky said.

This article originally appeared on page 14 of the No. 2 April 2024 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.

Author: Sophie Lange

Sophie Lange is the News Editor for The Gettysburgian. Previously, she served as a Staff Writer for the News section. Sophie is an Environmental Studies, Spanish and Public Policy triple major from northern Maryland. On campus, she is a research assistant for the Environmental Studies Department and a member of the Interfaith Council. In her free time, Sophie enjoys spending time outdoors and writing.

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