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Shipman’s love of learning sends her to Spain

For most people Spain is a unique and culturally diverse vacation spot. For Reggie Jenae Shipman, it is the future home of her first bilingual teaching job.

Shipman, a Charles Henderson High School graduate and Pike County resident, is the first student from this area to be awarded this opportunity through the cultural Ambassador Program.

This program is offered through the Ministry of Education in Spain and allows Spanish students and teachers of the English language the opportunity to broaden their knowledge of the English language and American culture through the interaction with native speakers. Shipman graduated from Louisiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a minor in Business Administration.

She is one of some 1,500 students, junior, senior or college graduates chosen throughout the United States to participate in this program. These students must have a bachelor degree in native English and an intermediate level knowledge of Spanish.

Shipman began learning Spanish at the age of 7, when her brother taught her the numbers in Spanish.

“I’ve always had a strong passion and interest to learn about the Spanish language and culture, now I have the opportunity to take what I’ve learned and experience it firsthand,” she said.

Dr. Linda Felton-Smith superintendent of Troy City Schools played and Pam Merkel, Shipman’s High School Spanish teacher played a huge role in influencing her to stick with Spanish. “No experience is like this one. I wouldn’t be the same without their guidance,” said Shipman.

Upon graduation from LSU Shipman was not like other normal college students, explained Dr. Felton-Smith. “She called and asked if there was something (she could) do with students. To have this opportunity it reminds me what we do everyday is worth it,” Felton-Smith said.

“I’m so excited to have Jenae talking to students, interacting with them. She knows first-hand the quality of the program at Charles Henderson. To participate in a world program is proof that our foreign language program can compete with any program in the world.”

Shipman always has been ambitious and goal-driven, explained Mrs. Merkel. “I can see what I have planted in her. She will be in a positive position to influence those children’s lives,” Merkel said.

And Shipman credits Merkel with preparing her for this role. “Participating in Mrs. Merkel’s Spanish class for four consecutive years really gave me a strong foundation when it came to pursuing a Spanish degree. She also exposed us to different elements of the Spanish culture through different projects and presentations such as the ‘Trip Project,’ proper etiquette and the ‘International Banquet.’ I was well-prepared when it came to Spanish grammar and literature courses. Not to mention, the two years of teaching in Spanish 3 and 4 (at Troy Elementary) that I will help me while in Spain,” she said.

Shipman leaves Sept. 19 and will spend two years in Spain. She will be living with a host family where she will serve as an au pair. Shipman does have the option of extending her stay another year in which she can obtain her MBA.

“My mom is very excited about my trip to Spain. At first she was worried about the distance but she has warmed up to the idea now,” Shipman said.

She added that she likes encourage younger generations to not only dream big, but to focus and really put effort into making their dream become a reality. “Don’t be afraid to be different. Always think about what your next move will be so when its time to take your next step, you’ll know where you’re going,” she said.