It’s 3 p.m. on Friday. School is out and Hispanic students of all ages, from all around the Unicoi area, are headed to the after-school program at Unicoi United Methodist Church.
For the children, the program is a chance to learn, play and spend time with other Hispanic children. But for the volunteers, the children’s parents and the community, the program is so much more.
The church started the program four years ago to offer Hispanic children in the area a place to spend time together after school and to learn more about Jesus. In those four years, church volunteers have witnessed how the two-and-a-half hours at the church are not only good for the youngsters but are also a big help to parents.
With Spanish language channels available on American cable TV, viewers can enjoy programs other than those presented in English.
But which is preferred by bilingual teens at Unicoi County High School: English-language or Spanish-language channels? Or is there no distinct favorite?
Summer school may be dreaded by kids of all ages, but not so with students at East Tennessee State University’s Migrant Education Program.
Children of migrant agricultural workers in Unicoi, Washington, and Greene counties come to the program every year — and not just for educational purposes. Here, they are encouraged and motivated in their life’s choices and, most importantly, they enjoy it.
The sound of rewinding camera film mingled with laughter at Fender’s Farm in Washington County last fall as a group of seven young photographers took their first field trip of the year. They were part of Growing Tennessee: Rural Youth Cultivate Common Ground, a program that unites youths from different cultural backgrounds.
"Watch the sun and keep your finger off the shutter," reminded photography professor Alice Anthony, of Milligan College, before participants began the corn maze on the warm fall morning. "Be more selective and remember to turn in the rolls of film."
Growing Tennessee began in 2006 through a partnership between Tennessee Migrant and Seasonal Head Start, run by Telamon Corp., and 4-H, a youth organization supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Jane Crowe, Telamon program development coordinator.
The Unicoi class, along with others in Greene County and West Tennessee, is sponsored by the Tennessee Arts Commission as a youth initiative for at-risk teens. It allows participants to share cultural traditions through the lens of a camera.
Many immigrants in Erwin use prepaid calling cards to stay in touch with family members in their countries of origin. The cards, found in stores throughout the area, offer rates cheaper than conventional landline long distance calls. Even so, buyers sometimes feel cheated.
“When you buy a card, it never gives you the amount of minutes it said,” Patricia Breto said as she purchased a $3 “Fuerza Mexicana” card at El Corita, a store that sells Hispanic goods on Main Avenue.
“One time I spent $5 on a card and it only gave me one call. I called the customer service number on the card and no one answered. It made me so mad.”