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The American Romanian Cultural Society



June 5th 2021

Community civic engagement and social entrepreneurship panel:

The fourth presenter within the panel on community civic engagement and social entrepreneurship was the Executive Director and Co-Founder of The American Romanian Cultural Society (ARCS in Seattle) Professor Otilia Baraboi. Established eight years ago, to address the need to promote language and cultural programs in the growing diaspora hub of Seattle, the organization follows the mode of the French Alliance and seeks to find partners to extend a network of such entities. ARCS currently works with a handful of diaspora organizations, including the IRF, in establishing such a network complementary to their work (FORA). ARCS was featured in the 2020 IRF Annual Conference with their project of excellence in promoting heritage language education and Mrs. Baraboi led a round-table panel discussion during the 2020 IRF conference on the very topic of developing a curriculum that specifically caters to the needs of second-generation Romanian Americans. Over the summer a handful of organizations throughout the US supported ARCS’ spearheaded efforts to have a nationwide Romanian language completion among heritage speakers, an effort supported financially by several organizations, including the IRF. One of the biggest coups of the organization was to obtain state support and recognition for its language courses. They received an OSPI grant for the teaching of Romanian, Russian and Spanish Heritage Languages, a cross-cultural program under the Evergreen School-District with the collaboration of the World Affairs Council, the Ethnic Heritage Council amongst others. ARCS is dynamic in seeking to expand their advocacy through strategic partnerships and outreach sending representatives to Los Angeles, trying to create synergies with other larger diaspora hubs on the west coast. The community-based organization is possibly best known for its commendable Romanian Film Fest-Seattle, the eighth annual edition of the festival taking place virtually, accessible to all throughout the United States. The support of partners in various diaspora hubs placed the festival on a truly national stage in its outreach. Their heritage language program was also shifted to virtual classes opening the possibility for participants in other states. It resulted in a tripling of participants, a volume that ensures the sustainability of these courses and a reversal of the dwindling demand experienced at a local level. Understanding the special needs of heritage speakers is at the core of what ARCS does in their varied collaborations at a local and national, regional, and national level.

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