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Internships offer Spanish Program students a different experience

WCU's Spanish Program students have a long tradition of being involved with local community organizations as volunteers, putting their language skills and cultural awareness to use while working with our neighbors.

In Spring 2020, we began to formalize those relationships by creating internships, which allows students to work even more closely with these organizations and earn credit toward a Spanish major or minor at the same time. There are currently seven students enrolled this semester in SPAN 389, our internship course.

student internTori Combs, intern with Enlace Latino NC. (Don't get the wrong idea: her internship is actually virtual and there is no boat involved.)


One new internship opportunity this semester is with Enlace Latino NC, a nonprofit and non-partisan news organization based here in North Carolina. Their objectives are not only to inform their readers but also to encourage them to be more involved in social, political, and economic changes in their communities.

Tori Combs is working with Enlace Latino NC this fall, and she tells us: "I have been transcribing presentations, interviews, and conversations between the founders of the website and a variety of people including psychologists and many entrepreneurs. Most of the interviews relate to current events such as COVID and the elections, and sometimes serve as an outreach to the Latino community."

Vecinos is a local organization that serves farmworkers and their families primarily by providing access to free primary and behavioral healthcare, as well as organizing donations of clothing and household items, gifts for children, and wellness groups. Farm labor can be extremely dangerous, but people who work in agriculture are often among the most underserved and marginalized folks in our communities. Vecinos gives our students the opportunities to serve these friends and neighbors.

Gillian Hernandez at her internship

Gillian Hernández assists a patient in the clinic at Vecinos.

Noemí Sánchez Jiménez and Gillian Hernández are two student interns with Vecinos this semester. They help the organization with tasks like interpreting for medical and dental appointments, organizing hygiene kits for farmworkers and their families, taking part in outreach visits, and providing educational information about COVID-19. Medical interpreting is a specialized skill that requires native or near-native language proficiency, so the contributions of these women are especially valued.

Sydney Carlson is another student intern, and she fulfills some similar duties at Vecinos: taking care of office work and putting together COVID care packages and delivering them to farmworkers around western North Carolina. She also helps out when farmworkers come to the clinic for checkups. Sydney's internship is unique, though, as she divides her time between Vecinos and the 30th Judicial District Alliance, an organization that provides outreach, advocacy, and other services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. For the Alliance, Sydney translates documents in both directions (Spanish to English and English to Spanish), and the documents are usually flyers announcing events and opportunities, as well as packets with information on services and Spanish-speaking businesses in the region.

REACH of Macon County is another organization that works to help survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. They serve these community members in numerous ways, such as providing immediate emergency shelter, connecting people with court advocates, offering programs on jobs and life skills, teaching violence prevention in local schools, and a number of other related efforts.

Mariela Ramírez, the Spanish Program's intern currently placed with REACH of Macon County, says:  "I am working on translating their website to Spanish so that Spanish speaking people can understand the resources that REACH offers. I also occasionally assist with client paperwork or shelter activities."

student intern

Mary Stuart Vanhoy, two-time intern with Stanly County Schools.

It is not uncommon for public school systems to offer internship opportunities to our students, and Mary Stuart Vanhoy is working this semester with the lead speech pathologist for Stanly County Schools. Just like schools here in the mountains, schools in Stanly County (which is located east of Charlotte) often find themselves struggling to serve their Spanish-speaking students and their families. Mary Stuart, who already worked with the school system over the summer, tells us of her work this semester: "I am continuing with file folder games that are interactive hands-on activities that allow for bilingual students who need speech therapy to be able to see, feel, hear, and say words in both Spanish and English."

The Spanish Program is extremely proud of these students, all of whom are putting their language skills to work as they serve our communities in different ways.

Interested in taking part in an internship in an upcoming semester? Contact Dr. Lori Oxford, the coordinator of WCU's Spanish Program, to find out about availabilities or share your own ideas for a new internship opportunity.

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