by Ricky Oliver ~ DNS School Social Worker
I was sitting in a meeting with the Latino/Hispanic parents and the meeting was completely in Spanish. I sat there bewildered wanting to participate and feel a part of the group, but I didn’t understand what was going on; I couldn’t understand the language. My intern, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, interpreted for me, but sometimes she would forget to share with me what was being said. Finally I stood up and told the parents how I felt and I apologized to the parents that they felt the same way in the PEP meetings and the Parent-Teacher Conferences. I think they accepted my apology.
The meeting that took place with the Latino/Hispanic families was a result of an interesting meeting that occurred between my intern and me. In the Fall of 2011 during a supervision meeting, my intern, Sarah Campbell (she’s getting her Masters in Social Work at UNC), asked me some thought-provoking questions about Durham Nativity School’s service to Latino/Hispanic families. “Do Latino/Hispanic parents feel comfortable interacting with faculty and staff and English speaking families at DNS?” “Do Latino/Hispanic parents understand the policies at DNS?” “Are there interpretation and translation provided for the Latino/ Hispanic families at DNS?” From this discussion was birthed the Latino Cultural Competency Task Force at DNS.
The Task Force members include Ricky Oliver (school social worker), Sarah Campbell (social work intern), Maria Calvopina (parent), and Sherolyn Patterson (parent). During the first meeting the Task Force adopted this mission statement: “The Latino Cultural Competency Task Force exists to identify issues affecting the holistic care of Latino students and families at Durham Nativity School and suggest ways to address those issues.”
The Task Force created a survey to elicit feedback from the Latino/Hispanic parents and from the feedback that we received we had a meeting with the Latino/Hispanic families (the meeting mentioned at the beginning) to discuss the results of the survey and other concerns. The meeting was excellent and it was incredible to see parents that were normally quiet and shy to be so vocal and speak with such passion and energy. They came alive because they understood what was going on; they understood the language.
Based on the Latino/Hispanic concerns we have diligently sought after volunteers that can interpret in Spanish at the PEP meetings, home visits, and Parent-Teacher Conferences. For a while our search looked bleak, but just recently Dr. Moylan referred the Task Force to a group of interpreters from his network and board member Diane Evia-Lanevi had some connections the produced several interpreters for the school.
The Task Force is continuing to meet as a group and have meetings with the Latino/Hispanic parents. Some of our goals include the following: a) Spanish translation of the Parent Handbook, b) Spanish translation of report cards, c) Latino/Hispanic representative on the PEP Executive Board, d) hire a part-time, bilingual, preferably Latino/Hispanic employee to provide translation and interpretation skills and cultural competent communication with families – just to name a few.
Durham Nativity School is an exceptional school and indeed is a work in progress. Becoming a culturally competent community so that we can better serve all of our families is one of the ways in which DNS is progressing towards excellence.