The Voice of the Interpreters
December 2, 2016
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Senior Karina Hernandez will never forget the first time she interpreted. It was a small classroom filled with parents, she recalls how the few Spanish-speaking parents present felt intimidated because they could not understand the language being spoken.
At that moment she understood her responsibility as a bilingual student interpreter and translated at the front of the class with conviction. The parents, who now felt included and had been given a better understanding of their child’s education, thanked her profusely.
Linda Guereña, the bilingual community coordinator and student interpreter advisor, has seen the interpreters program grow and spread over the past five years.
“It started with just a few students,” she said. “They saw the need of Spanish-speaking parents who came to back to school night and did not have language access, so they volunteered to help those parents.”
The program grew every year after since it started in 2011, with training provided for new interpreters. The student interpreters model was built at Dos Pueblos, but as the program grew, district officials began discussing a model where parents could enjoy and expect professional interpretation.
“That’s something we feel families are entitled to,” said DP Principal Shawn Carey. “And that we have an obligation to support and to provide.”
In 2016 the student interpreters program was replaced with district-appointed professional interpreters. However at the DP 2016 Back to School Night the district was not able to provide enough interpreters to fit the demand.
“The district saw a need to provide professional interpreting for the parents at back to school night and decided to use their bilingual staff to provide services, which is a wonderful idea because we want parents to have good language access,” Guereña said. “But the district did not have the capacity to provide enough interpreters, it is sad to see that they did away with the student support when there was such a lack of adult interpreters at Back to School Night.”
The district hopes to have enough adult interpreters in the future so there will not be a need for the student interpreters, but as of now the students are fighting for their right to interpret.
Some students who feel very strongly about interpreting have gone to some elementary schools to volunteer their time individually. However, the interpretation that they had planned to do as a group was not allowed because the program was shut down. Some of them have been interpreters for years and feel that shutting down the program, as Guereña said, “excludes them from the school and some even felt it decreased their self-esteem.”
Junior Aranzazu Herrera Magallanes, who has been a student interpreter since her freshman year, has not remained quiet about this issue. She continues to speak at meetings and gatherings to bring as much attention as possible to the issue at hand. On September 14th, Magallanes gathered some of the most dedicated student interpreters and set out to San Marcos High back to school night. She and the others tirelessly looked for other student interpreters from San Marcos who would be willing to support the return of the bilingual student interpreters program.
“It’s not over,” Magallanes said. “Our parents need language access, and until the school district can provide complete access to Back-to-School Nights student interpreters should be allowed to provide interpretation”.
Interpreting had been a significant part of the student’s life.
“This program is very important in that it makes students feel like they belong,” Guerena said. “Like they have something to give, that they have a skill that is useful.”
The students will no longer be called student interpreters for district events, they will be called bilingual guides and ambassadors. And will only be allowed to help parents as guides without interpreting or explaining.
“It’s something I’ve only ever had positive experiences with and positive associations around” said Dos Principal Carey, “it’s something that only ever served as a point of pride for the students themselves and for our families, and our school, and for me.”
Carey is also concerned about the effect this change will have on the student interpreters.
“I feel terrible about how the students feel, I feel worried, I feel pain, I feel regret,” she said. “I have had some anxiety leading up to back to school night about this transition, and I certainly have a lot of anxiety about our transition now.”
This issue is one that affects many people and requires meticulous decision making, Carey hopes to find a solution that will be inclusive and will make both parents and student interpreters feel welcome.