Boston Preschool, Haitian Creole Dual-Language

Boston Preschool Creates First Haitian Creole Dual-Language Program

This mission not only challenges stereotypes, but maintains Haiti's legacy and culture across its diaspora.

A Boston elementary school helps immigrant families become part of their community through an innovative program. It initiated the first Haitian Creole dual-language preschool program in the country.

The Toussaint L’Ouverture Dual Language Academy, named after the leader of the Haitian Revolution, not only seeks to help all students communicate with one another and the world but also fosters pride in its Haitian students. The first-ever for preschoolers, its introduction matches Boston’s high population of Haitian people, the third-most in the U.S. Its placement in the Mattahunt Elementary school hopes to resolve language barriers as students first enter the classroom.

“Boston Public Schools and many community partners felt that the Mattahunt would be the best location, especially in Mattapan, which has a high Haitian population,” explained Priscilla Joseph, a teacher and Academy founder at the school, to NBC News.

A Haitian-American herself, Joseph understands that the students deserve support and encouragement of their language, culture, and history. A majority of the school’s students are Black, with 97% overall considered nonwhite. Out of the 512 students, 132 learn in the dual language program. For educators, the Academy serves the purpose of not just learning but one of acceptance.

“I also grew up in a place where it wasn’t OK to say that you were Haitian, and there was a lot of discrimination against Haitian people,” she said. “So I kind of took my own experiences and entered that into the classroom, knowing how it feels to be a little bit different, or a little bit outcasted, because of your culture.”

The preschool also helps students, many of whom are children of immigrants, serve as translators for relatives who may not speak English. This training also extends to faculty, as some speak Haitian Creole to help parents be part of their child’s education. The program’s results have also led to increased test scores across the school.

The curriculum ensures that all subjects, including a cultural section, incorporate both languages during class. Despite the country’s current political state, Haitian students in Boston are learning to take pride in their heritage. This mission dismantles stereotypes and maintains Haiti’s legacy and culture across its diaspora.

“We’re just prepping them for when they take over,” stated Mattahunt’s principal, Walter Henderson. “And we try to make sure that they understand that Haiti is a powerful nation.”