To teach and instill a continued interest of foreign languages and cultural awareness in young students.
Foreign Language for Youth (FLY), a Non profit 501(c)3 corporation teaches Spanish, French, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and Arabic to about 1,000 students in over 100 elementary and middle school classes each year. FLY teaches before and after school programs as well as classes integrated into a school’s regular curriculum in 60 public and private schools throughout 18 of Washington State’s Puget Sound public school districts and private schools.
Founded in 1995 by Executive Director, Konni Barich, FLY was created to embellish our education system by offering aspiring students a chance to begin their road toward fluency in a foreign language. Our small class sizes of 10 students meet before, after or during school times, coordinated around the convenience of the school. Our unique multi-level dialogue based curriculum teaches dialogue segments, vocabulary and total physical response through games, songs, drama and other fun activities and is layered in such a way to accommodate various levels and ages and to support and challenge our advancing students.
Konni Barich – Executive Director
In 1994, my three kids were at Columbia Elementary in the Mukilteo School District. I started Foreign Language for Youth because I wanted my own children to become fluent in a language and I was not alone: many other parents I met wanted the same thing for their children.
Studies show the window of opportunity for learning a language is before the age of 12, so I still had a couple years for my own children to be exposed. After much research and observation, I envisioned a program where students learned basic dialogue segments that they could build into conversations; all through games, songs, fun activities and drama. It had to be fun for the kids.
In March of 1995, FLY had three classes teaching Spanish, Korean and Japanese to thirty students in the Mukilteo School District. Since that time we’ve added curricula for French, German, Mandarin Chinese and Arabic. In 2017 nearly 1,000 students enjoy our classes as FLY celebrates its 22nd year of teaching language classes to elementary students around Puget Sound.
Language learning was a top priority when our children were in elementary school, and I am so proud today that our daughter Karli is fluent in Spanish, our son Bryce is highly conversational in Mandarin and Spanish and Rustin, our youngest son, is fluent in Japanese. All three of our children studied abroad after spending years in high school and university classrooms.
FLY was founded on the idea that early exposure, continuous study, and an opportunity for immersion are what it takes to achieve fluency in a language.
Konni has degrees in Kinesiology and Nursing from the University of Washington.
Nicole Diarra – Assistant Director
After having spent two and a half years as a Peace Corps volunteer living in and teaching English at a high school in a rural village in Madagascar, Africa, my interest in languages, cultures, and service is heightened and unwavering. I was born in Seattle, and I hold a B.A. in Spanish from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. Since I was young, language learning and cultural immersion have been a part of my life. In third grade in the mornings before school, I took a Spanish class similar to FLY’s, and later participated in a foreign exchange to Argentina between junior high and high school. During my time at Pacific, I spent time teaching English-language-learners of very little formal education as well as studying abroad and completing the second part of my thesis in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico.
As a former Peace Corps volunteer and Legal Assistant and Office Manager of a boutique immigration law firm, I have experienced firsthand the value and importance of knowing how to communicate in multiple languages. This communication is essential for success and understanding within the world we share today. FLY exposes children to language-learning and other cultures from a young age, which will improve our relationships with other people and nations, as we are encouraging an interest which can ultimately lead to the fostering of understanding, tolerance, and inclusion.
Sofia Pylvainen – Administrative Assistant
Learning Spanish at a young age has had a significant impact on me. My first exposure to Spanish was when I attended a K-5 Spanish Immersion school in Minnesota, where I became fluent through singing, playing, and acting. As the years passed my interest in Spanish continued to grow. I completed my B.A. in Spanish Language and Literature and a minor in music from the University of Washington in 2013.
The past few years I have worked with children, youth, and adults in different environments. I strive to share my knowledge of Spanish through conversation and music with those around me because I strongly believe that exposure to languages, especially at a young age, can have a great influence, and we can all learn from each other if we are willing to share our skills and experiences. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with at-risk immigrant youth from Mexico and Central America at a non-profit in the Seattle area, working on building their English fluency and developing life skills to develop long-lasting healthy habits. Finally, I have worked as an Administrative Assistant and Instructor with adults who come from all walks of life: non-traditional students, English language learners, those with learning disabilities, and those with work related injuries working towards a technical degree.
I am excited be a part of the team here at FLY whose mission to educate children in a foreign language can lead to a brighter future for us all.
Karli Barich – FLY’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees and IT Consultant
Karli’s contribution to FLY since inception is varied and foundational. She started out as one of FLY’s first students while attending 7th grade, taught Spanish for FLY for 12 years, authored the 2nd, 3rd and 4th level Spanish and 2nd and 3rd level French curricula, developed FLY’s website and sophisticated data flow system and implemented many policies and procedures.
Karli holds a bachelor degree in Spanish from the UW, where she also received her paralegal degree and is the founder and CEO of Planet Shrunk, FLY’s IT provider. She serves as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Foreign Language for Youth.
FLY Teachers are passionate, dedicated, and eager to share their knowledge of their target language and culture. All FLY teachers are exceptional individuals, and they are also:
- Fluent in their target language. Many are native speakers.
- Have spent significant time (6 months or more) in a country where the target language is a primary language.
- Experienced teachers. We require all teachers to have classroom experience. Many were grade-school teachers in their home country.
- Able to work legally in the U.S. and have completed and passed full background checks.
Belle Chen – Illustrations
Belle is an illustrator intern for our Young Authors program. She has dreamed of illustrating children’s books because of her love for art and believes in the importance of early language exposure so that individuals have a greater sense of respect and understanding of cultures. Growing up in a Mandarin speaking home has taught her the value of language, culture, and diversity and she is passionate about contributing to our goal of publishing stories that support our students’ progress and creativity.
Belle graduated with a degree in Biochemistry from the University of Washington and is continuing her education at the University of Washington School of Dentistry.
Lauren Poulsen- Social Marketing
Lauren is a FLY intern with experience in social media, and has worked on increasing FLY’s social media presence through a renewed online presence. She also has assisted in composing scripts for FLY Language CDs.
Lauren is passionate about learning other languages and cultures, and has devoted her college career to learning about these. Recently, she has studied abroad in both France and China. Her early exposure to foreign language was limited, and as such she sees the immense value in FLY’s work with young students, and hopes that foreign language will continually become more accessible to youth.
Lauren is a rising junior at the University of Chicago, where she is double majoring in Linguistics and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and studying French and Turkish.
Lauren Scott – Social Marketing
Lauren joined the Foreign Language for Youth team as an intern with an interest in social marketing. She has been working to further promote FLY’s brand through the management of their social media sites. Lauren has also used her passion for graphic design in redesigning a number of FLY’s promotional documents.
After studying abroad in Florence, Italy, Lauren’s appreciation for different cultures and foreign languages has grown tremendously. She is thrilled to be working with FLY and contributing to its mission of educating children in a second language.
In the fall of 2014, Lauren will begin her senior year at Gonzaga University where she is currently an English major with minors in public relations and promotions.
Alison Payne – Digital Marketing
Alison came to FLY on an internship to demonstrate her abilities in social networking and marketing. She created FLY’s social networking plan and redesigned much of the materials to demonstrate the quality of the FLY Program. Since her internship, FLY’s website traffic more than doubled, and we actually have an active social media presence.
She is passionate about the importance of learning language. She herself speaks multiple: English, French, Spanish and German.
She currently lives in Paris and works as a digital marketing consultant.
Fernan Saulon – FLY Young Authors Video
As of June 2014, Fernan will graduate from the University of Washington with a major in Media and Communications, and a minor in Computer Science. He has developed a passion for video editing and hopes to soon have a career in the field. He also self-studied other skills such as HTML and graphic design and hopes to integrate these in a career with video-editing.
Fernan says, “When it comes to learning multiple languages, I believe that it’s a great way to expand the mind of a person. Not only will a person learn another language, but one will also be exposed to other cultures and could possibly bring new perspectives about the world. I’ve seen many people, who learned different languages, have the opportunity to travel to the countries of their targeted language. And they’ve all said that it was a great experience and all those years learning was worth every second.”
Joseph Chong – FLY Young Authors Video
As of June 2014, Joseph will graduate from the University of Washington with a double major in Media/Communications and Law, Economics, & Public Policy. While at the UW, he has volunteered at a few organizations working with kids in a variety of communities. He is glad to make a positive impact on their lives.
Joseph has studied Spanish, Korean and English, and is looking forward to see today’s youth develop with multiple languages.
He says, “This is a sort of education that would improve everyone’s communications and have a better understanding of different cultures. Hopefully, FLY will be the team that makes the positive difference with these young students moving forward.”
Yuki Maeda – FLY Admin Volunteer
Yuki was born and raised in Japan. She graduated from Waseda University in 1992, in Tokyo, with a Bachelor’s degree in literature. She enjoys learning foreign languages and has continued her studies in English and French.
In 2012, Yuki came to the United State because her husband was relocated. After studying English in ESL class in Cascadia Comunity College for 1 year, she volunteered for Foreign Language for Youth. Yuki was invaluable to FLY’s launch of the 2013-14 School Year. She compiled teacher packets, counted books, worksheets, supplies and much more.
Yuki reflects, “I didn’t imagine that I would live and work in the United States. Without having studied English, I wouldn’t have such an enjoyable life here. I believe that learning foreign languages will help everyone’s future.”
Forrest Walker – Teacher Aid
Forrest is a 14 year old homeschooled 8th grader who enjoyed volunteering with FLY to assist in a Spanish class during the 2014-2015 school year. Forrest began his love of languages as an infant learning American Sign Language before his first spoken word. Forrest attended a Spanish and English Dual-Language K-6 school. His Spanish knowledge has led to many friendships and enabled him to converse while traveling with his family through Mexico and Central America. Forrest hopes to be a scientist someday.