Russian-language summer program for under-served youth receives $230,000

The Pushkin Summer Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been awarded two grants totaling $230,000 to help fund summer Russian-language classes for high school students from under-represented, low-income and minority communities.

A $90,000 grant from STARTALK, a project of the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland, will help fund the program held on the UW-Madison campus.

A $140,000 grant from the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), a program administered by the U.S. Department of State and American Councils for International Education, will fund a six-week study abroad program in Latvia for 15 students who attended the campus program last year.

“This is the second level of the Pushkin Summer Institute,” says David Bethea, Vilas Research Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature, who directs the Pushkin Program.

Students traveling to Latvia will stay with host families, attend classes, and embark on cultural excursions as part of a typical week in the city of Daugavpils, Latvia’s second-largest city, which has a significant Russian-speaking population. Through interaction with host families and Russian-speaking peers, students will be immersed in Russian for the duration of the program.

Established in 2012, the Pushkin Summer Institute’s campus program is a six-week academic program that aims to improve students’ Russian-language abilities through a blend of language, cultural, and literature studies. Students stay in Kronshage Hall, attend classes in Van Hise Hall, and go on area field trips. Last year, 22 students attended.

“On their record it will show they have learned Russian and quite a bit of Russian,” Bethea says. “It really helps them in the college admissions process.”

The program was initially a partnership with Pritzker College Prep in Chicago, and has since expanded to include students from Noble Street College Prep in Chicago and West Anchorage High School in Anchorage, Alaska.

More information on the program is available at

— by Karen Hess