Imagine you are in a country where they speak a language that you do not understand. Now imagine trying to find help in a busy hospital or clinic without having an effective means to communicate.
“Sometimes we take for granted that we can communicate on any level,” said Neila Rodriguez, owner of Tri-City Bi-Lingual Consulting, who works as an interpreter in Johnson City and at the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development in Kingsport.
For many in East Tennessee, the language barrier is a reality, but one that hospitals and clinics are trying to overcome for patients.
Dobyns-Bennett High School students have been excelling on the National Spanish Examination and aim to continue the tradition. Awards were granted to 40 students from the high school for the exam in 2008, acknowledging their excellence in academic achievement for learning Spanish as a second language.
The National Spanish Examination, sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, is a standardized assessment given by teachers to measure the proficiency and achievement of students studying Spanish as a second language. In addition to receiving national recognition, students who excelled on this exam are eligible to apply for junior travel awards and senior scholarships. This impressive show by the D-B students has inspired teachers and students to continue their academic pursuits into applied living and community activities.
On a Friday afternoon in Jonesborough, Tenn., the sun is beating down, five men load tobacco that has been cut and speared on a tractor to take the barn. They have worked a short day, it is pay day. But they are not done yet. They still have to hang the tobacco in the barn.
Junior Villanueva, 32, Juan Avila; 42, Victoriano Gomez, 20; Santos Miguel, 32 and Jose Sanchez, 34, are Jeff Aiken’s migrant workers. The men toil over his farm on a daily basis for about six months, harvesting his tobacco in the fall.
Eastman Chemical Co. is spicing up its group fitness program with Latin dance classes for employees.
“Dancing is fun, easy and effective,” said Sarita Atiles, a certified Latin dance instructor. “You forget you are working out!"
Atiles was hired for dance instruction and entertainment at Eastman’s annual health fair held last fall. In black gym shorts and a white tank top, with a microphone strapped to her head, Atiles led a small group of women in a fast-paced dance routine called Zumba. With remarkable energy she called out encouragement to the group as they worked through each new phase of the dance. Zumba includes Latin music that “takes over your body” and moves that are easy to follow, said Atiles.
Covered-dish dinners, salsa dancing, and picnics outside on a sunny day provide more than just a good time for the local Hispanic community. Activities sponsored by a Kingsport social club take the initiative to focus on positive change and to link together the area’s Latinos.
“I have made countless friends through Club Latinoamericano and made friendships that I consider part of my extended family,” said Humberto Collazo, an Eastman engineer and native of Puerto Rico.
“It also helps me integrate into the community, especially when we have the opportunity to share our culture with the people of the TriCities,” he said.