Maureen Santamaria founded the Children’s Center for Language and Culture, Inc. (ChiCeLaCu) in 2007, the first Spanish immersion center in Northern Virginia. ChiCeLaCu began operations with the Saturday School at Epiphany United Methodist Church in Vienna. Soon, the program expanded to include after-school and preschool programs. In 2009, after providing services from the Vienna Community Center, ChiCeLaCu opened its own location in Vienna while simultaneously offering its preschool program from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax. Soon thereafter, summer camps became part of the program selection. Spanish at Your School began in 2009 and expanded the center’s reach to several public and private schools in Northern Virginia, including Forestville Elementary, Great Falls Elementary, and Chesterbrook Elementary, among others.
In 2019, ChiCeLaCu moved to the City of Fairfax, and in 2020, it opened a second location in the Tysons/Falls Church area in partnership with St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. ChiCeLaCu rose to the challenge facing educational centers during the pandemic years and quickly and effectively adapted its services to an online format. Henceforth, ChiCeLaCu began offering online classes for highly proficient/native speakers and language learners, allowing course selection to expand beyond language classes and into drawing, coding, and mathematics, providing other fun ways to learn and practice Spanish! ChiCeLaCu’s foray into the publication world in 2020 yielded nearly two dozen Spanish early literacy books now available on Amazon and used across all ChiCeLaCu programs. This new venture is built upon decades of direct classroom experience and is motivated by a desire to provide our students with materials that will support early literacy and inspire an appreciation and love for classic Latin American literature.