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Wichita State Spanish Students Collaborate with Alce Su Voz

Updated: May 10, 2023

By Devin Hamm, Madison Coleman, Cynthia Hermosillo, and Payton Dearmont

This fall semester, the students in Dr. Rachel Showstack’s “Spanish in the U.S.” class designed and implemented community projects in collaboration with Alce su voz to advance health equity for Spanish speakers and speakers of Mayan languages in Kansas. The projects included an iconographic about worker’s rights, a community event in Wichita on applying for financial aid and succeeding in college, a survey about experiences with informal interpreting, and a planned trilingual community event in Dodge City. Each group of students conducted investigation on a community issue, planned a community outreach activity, and disseminated the information to the community in both English and Spanish to reach a wider audience.

One group chose to investigate the abuse that undocumented workers face in the workplace, a topic that is often not discussed publicly. After investigating the legislation that protects workers’ rights and the resources available to undocumented workers in Wichita, this group decided to make a Spanish-language infographic flyer to disseminate on social media and in various locations around town. This flyer contains information about the number of undocumented workers around Kansas and the United States, the different types of workplace abuse, and local resources that can help undocumented workers of all ages. The flier contains a QR code linked to a page of additional resources. The flyer has basic information and includes graphics so that people will notice it and so the message reaches as many people as possible. The goal for this project is to provide information to support the safety and well-being of undocumented workers and their families.

The second project was designed to support Spanish-speaking families with children finishing high school and recent high school graduates in the process of applying for college financial aid. In collaboration with Alce su voz and Somos First Gen, the second group organized a Spanish-language informational workshop on FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which took place on Saturday, November 19 at the Evergreen Community Center and Library. The people who attended the event were both students and parents looking to learn about scholarships and financial aid they can obtain through FAFSA. Daisy Reyes and Samuel Nava of WSU Tech gave presentations about the process of filling out the application form, important dates, and common myths associated with FAFSA. Nearly half of the people surveyed at the end of the event said they had some experience with this form, but many others were unaware of, or not familiar with the process. The goal of this workshop was to inform students and parents of the resources available for those who wish to continue their education.

The third group conducted an on-line survey to investigate the experiences of WSU students, faculty, and staff with language barriers within the community. With 11 languages represented among the 17 participants, they found that out of the participants surveyed, 90.9% of the participants have had to interpret for a friend or family member in a healthcare or social service context. The survey also found that 70.6% of all participants had been asked to interpret at their workplace when it was not part of their responsibility to do so. Furthermore, one of the 17 participants shared that they had turned down professional interpreting services because they believed that the services offered were of poor quality. This project shows the need for comprehensive training for all professional interpreters, especially those in the medical field, hiring more interpreters in the workplace outside of the medical field,more accessible knowledge of the right to an interpreter for individuals who need language assistance, and emphasizes the need for diverse linguistic accommodations in the community.

For the fourth project, one student is collaborating with Alce su voz and community leaders in Dodge City Kansas to host a meeting with the Guatemalan community members who speak indigenous languages, to establish an effective way to disseminate information, in the appropriate languages, regarding health care. In this meeting, community leaders will facilitate a tri-lingual discussion in Spanish and the Mayan languages K’iche’ and Aguakateko to discuss barriers to healthcare access for Mayan communities in Kansas; and community health workers will offer information about health services in Dodge City and answer participants’ health-related questions. The meeting will be held in January 2023.

These group projects highlight the importance of access to knowledge, the right to communication and education, and the strength of engaging with communities. Making a difference in the community can be achieved through many mediums and processes, one only has to start with a conversation.

Daisy Reyes of WSU Tech explains the process of applying for financial aid in a community workshop organized by Dr. Showstack's students in colaboration with Alce su voz and other local organizations

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