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Keywords:

  • community service-learning;
  • Leonard Covello;
  • multiculturalism;
  • pedagogy;
  • U.S. heritage languages

Abstract: In this article I describe the work of Leonard Covello, a New York City language educator and high school principal of the early 20th century who argued for Italian and Spanish heritage language (HL) preservation in schools. Although Covello promoted standard language Italian and Spanish in the HL classroom, he also encouraged HL students to use their languages and language variations for community service and activism in their East Harlem neighborhoods. Through historical evidence, I show that HL students' community work in their languages and language variations helped them develop a civic identity that contrasted with the delinquent roles presupposed for them in the public sphere. I conclude by offering Covello's work as a perspective for language educators in the 21st century.