Allison Baugher ’08
Spanish, Religion and Music | Washington, D.C.
Spotlight on Service:
Allison Baugher volunteers with Ballou International Education Program, an innovative initiative at the school where she teaches in Washington, D.C. For the past three years, Baugher has organized international travel for student groups and has worked with students and other teachers to fundraise the money for these trips. The first group went to Spain and Morocco, and last year, Baugher took the first-ever AP Spanish class at Ballou to Costa Rica. Each of the trips relied on fundraising to cover all costs.
This year Baugher has been working to develop a more sustainable program at the school with the goal of supporting three international tours this year and ensuring international travel opportunities to 50 students annually by next year. This spring, she will lead students to Ecuador on another study tour.
When Allison Baugher arrived at Susquehanna as a freshman in 2004, the teenager, who grew up on a rural orchard near Gettysburg and who was a middling Spanish student, would have laughed if you had told her she would soon be an award-winning Spanish teacher in Washington, D.C.’s inner city.
But, thanks to a confluence of influences and experiences that are the hallmark of Susquehanna’s brand of liberal arts education, Baugher is entering her fourth year teaching Spanish at Ballou High School in the city’s gritty southeast section.
During Susquehanna’s pre-enrollment, language-proficiency exam, Baugher didn’t even place out of the basic-level Spanish course. Yet, she discovered she loved Spanish thanks to Associate Professor of Spanish Amanda Meixell, who kept encouraging her to take more and more classes. “I don’t know if I can squeeze this in,” Baugher repeatedly told Meixell, while taking as many as 26 credits a semester to ultimately earn two bachelor’s degrees—one with a major in Spanish, the other with dual majors in music and religion.
“You can do it,” replied Meixell. “You’ve got to keep taking Spanish because you’ve come so far.”
Susquehanna’s SU CASA service trips to Nicaragua and Costa Rica and a semester studying abroad in Mérida, Mexico, sold Baugher on Spanish—and urban life. “Being on my own in a different country in a city like Mérida, where I knew absolutely no one, really opened my eyes and gave me the courage to do what I’m doing now,” she says.
Then a last-minute application to Teach for America led to a two-year assignment at Ballou High School—one of Washington’s poorest high schools—and ultimately a permanent position.
Thanks to Baugher’s influence, the school has gone from offering just two years of Spanish to four years, including an advanced placement class. The AP class was implemented after she helped raise $25,000 to fund an eight-student trip to Spain. That was followed by a 2011 trip to Costa Rica that she partially funded with a $5,000 grant she received for her teaching at Ballou—the Linowes Leadership Award from the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands are next.
“Students here have to overcome so many extreme challenges in their lives yet they are so resilient,” says Baugher. “They make me want to keep coming back in part because, compared to what they are struggling with, my job really isn’t all that hard.”
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