Spanish class reaches out to community

For many students, learning takes place inside a classroom, and the knowledge gained from a class is purely theoretical. Very few have the opportunity to take that knowledge and, under the guidance of a professor, apply it to the community around them.

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But for one SPN 379 class, “Entrepreneurship in Latin America,” applying classroom ideas to the Winston-Salem Latino community and building a relationship with those in it is part of the grade. The class’s 16 students, taught by Spanish professor Linda Howe, have worked on initiatives designed to bring the university closer to members of the Hispanic community.

“Unfortunately, one of Winston’s strongest and most prominent demographics, the Hispanic community, is near the bottom of totem pole with respect to university relations,” senior Kevin Tarsa said. “Sure, many students volunteer at El Buen Pastor, but the fact that there wasn’t even a single person working at our university’s tent at this year’s Hispanic festival in downtown Winston-Salem was an alarming indication of Wake’s lack of engagement with the local Latino community.”

Tarsa, along with two other seniors, established Latinos Empowered by Academic Development (LEAD), a three-year mentorship program that connects university sophomores with Hispanic high school students in the hopes of instilling in the local students a passion for learning.

While the program is still small, outside student interest in becoming a mentor is strong and the creators hope to have the program fully functional in the spring of 2013.

“LEAD is going to be an incredibly useful program in helping getting students involved and creating stronger bonds with the Latino community here in Winston,” senior Jacob Martinez said.

Another group developed Team LINK, a project devoted to learning more about Hispanic-serving organizations in the city and facilitating links between the university and these organizations.

“Team LINK is focusing on building relationships between organizations in the Hispanic community in Winston-Salem and Wake,” senior Caroline DeCelles said. “We’d really like to see a stronger volunteer presence of Wake students. We’re hoping to attract people who have been looking to get involved in the community, and people who are interested in learning more about the Hispanic community.”

Over the semester, these students have worked on identifying organizations in Winston-Salem that help Latinos, and have worked with them to build their programs, whether it be with schools or various groups in the city. These individuals created projects which teach music or computer literacy to Latino children at El Buen Pastor, which help children with body image issues and to increase literacy in the community.

“I think it is great that students are working to create a relationship with the Hispanic community,” junior Erin Christensen said. “Wake Forest seems really isolated from the city, and these students are trying to break that barrier. This class is what pro humanitate is all about.”

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