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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Career Choices and Spanish Community Service Learning


by Ann Abbott

I received an e-mail (quoted below) from a former student, Megan Knight, who did Spanish community service learning (CSL) with me last semester and did a Spanish & Illinois Summer Internship over the summer. Megan also blogged here last semester for honors credit in my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship Course." Obviously, Megan is an exceptional student with a lot of talent and initiative.

She's also a lot like many students of mine: she's talented in many areas and that sometimes makes it more difficult to hone in on one single career path.

So I like the fact that Spanish CSL contributed in some way to the decisions she is making about her career and how she can use Spanish to contribute to increased access to social services and representation for Spanish-speakers in the US.

Not only do our students get to see the kind of work that happens in the offices and classrooms of our community partners, the employees who supervise them can serve as formal or informal mentors. In the past, students who have done their CSL work at the Refugee Center have decided that they wanted a career in social work or law. One student who worked at the Champaign County Health Care Consumers decided to pursue a career in the non-profit sector. Many of our students' work in classrooms confirms their decision to study education, and other students have told me that it has made them switch to education.

What career paths can your students explore while working with your community partners? Try making those connections explicit for them, either in reflective essays or in-class activities.

Here is Megan's message:

"I really enjoyed working at Child Care Resource Services (CCRS) this summer, and it was a huge eye opener into what it would be like to work for a social agency. I feel like my Spanish definitely improved because of my time there, and my confidence also increased.

"What I enjoyed most about working at CCRS was speaking one on one with the clients in Spanish, knowing that no one else in the office could understand us, and what we were saying was confidential. It was obvious that Spanish speakers suffer many hardships here in the US, and being bilingual would really help me be able to help them.

"I'm thinking about going to grad school for an MSW, and... I've been looking for schools that offer certificates for working with Latino clients or schools that offer semester or summer abroad programs in Spanish speaking countries so I can continue learning and improving. I think I want to be a licensed clinical social worker or a school social worker (it's so hard to choose!!), and I definitely would like to be able to serve the Latino population."

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