By Ashley Lodato

Mazama sixth-grader Bellamy Kar has a shot at meeting Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Bellamy, who (along with his parents Erika and Christian and his brother Sebastian) is spending this school year in Baja California, recently took a test that all students in Mexican schools are required to take before moving on to secondary school, and he got the top score in his whole town!

A little back story here, so you can appreciate how remarkable this is: When the Kars were planning their move to Mexico, Erika found a school that advertised itself as bilingual, with half of each day being taught in Spanish and half in English. “Perfect,” Erika thought. The school would give Bellamy a chance to develop his rudimentary Spanish speaking skills while allowing him to conduct some of his classes in his native tongue.

Photo courtesy Erika Kars Bellamy Kars

Photo courtesy Erika Kars

Bellamy Kars

On the first day of school, however, the Kars learned that not only was Bellamy the only native English speaker in the class, but also that the English portion of the day was designed more to help the native Spanish speakers learn English — not to give Bellamy subject instruction in English.

So for the first couple of months of school, Bellamy relied on some new bilingual friends to help him survive in school. This was not a long-term solution, however, and eventually the Kars found a Spanish tutor for Bellamy, with whom he practiced an hour a day five days a week. Bellamy’s Spanish improved rapidly with the tutoring, and the Kars learned that during the test, which was delivered entirely in Spanish, Bellamy would be allowed to utilize his tutor for any questions he didn’t understand due to the language barrier, but not for any content consultation.

The test, which took place a couple of weeks ago, is taken very seriously by Mexican schools. During a meeting about the test, the director of Bellamy’s school informed parents that the top test scorer in the town would be sent to La Paz to take another test with all the other local high scorers, and then the top finisher in that test would go to Mexico City to meet the president.

The Kars had a good chuckle about Bellamy’s prospects here — “ha ha, wouldn’t it be funny if the little gringo got to meet the president.”

On the day of the test, Bellamy came home saying that he thought he did OK. More than OK — a few weeks later it was announced in front of the entire school that Bellamy got the top score! His classmates gave him a standing ovation. Now the Kars are about to head to La Paz, with hotel and food paid for by the Mexican government, for Bellamy to take the next test. And so for the Kars the only thing standing between them and an all-expenses paid junket to Mexico City to meet President Nieto is one standardized test.

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