TAMPA, Fla. — Language can be barrier, especially if you can’t communicate efficiently.
As the new school year approaches, the Hillsborough County Public School District is ensuring its Spanish speaking parents feel understood and welcomed.
What You Need To Know
- Hillsborough County Public School has over 80,000 students that identify as Hispanic
- This year the District is bringing back it’s bilingual volunteers who are aiding before and on the first day of school
- Mabel Pelaez Rodriguez works for the district but is also volunteering this year
Mabel Pelaez Rodriguez is hard at work, preparing a back-to-school checklist for Spanish-speaking families.
“It includes the list of what incoming kindergarten kiddos will need for their families to register them,” she said.
Although Rodriguez works for the school district as a Spanish interpreter and translator.
She’s also working as a volunteer — helping parents and students ahead of and on the first day of school.
It's all part of the bilingual volunteer program. The district has at least one at each school.
The program is a big help for immigrant parents like Marlene Morazan De Salgado, who is transferring her son to a different school.
She says having someone that speaks her language makes her feel comfortable and welcome.
"At first we struggled a lot, but now it’s perfect that we find a lot of people that know our language, because now we don’t struggle as much,” she said.
De Salgado's family moved to the U.S. from Nicaragua eight years ago.
She says she still finds it difficult to communicate in English, that’s why this program has been such a help for her.
"We can ask about any worries we may have and I feel like this is perfect,” she said.
Rodriguez says that’s the goal, to create a space where everyone feels welcome and “heard.”
"When I first got here my mother didn’t really have that much support in Spanish, so that motivated me to support my own Spanish speaking friends and neighbors,” said Rodriguez.
She says enrolling children in school and making sure they have everything they need can be a "learning process.”
“It’s very important for them to feel like someone is there to help them that speaks their language and can relate to their situation,” she said.
Each school will have a volunteer present for families who only speak Spanish.
They’ll also be there to help on the first day of school.