Students, Spanish-speaking employees trade skills

By Holly Prendergast
November 13, 2010

The Wolfington Center, CSI and Sodexo have recently come together to bring a new community-building program to Cabrini College.  ¡Somos Cabrini!, is the new program that has been developed by all three departments on campus.

The purpose of the program is to help Cabrini students improve their Spanish- speaking skills and to help the workers on campus who would like to improve their English and basic-computer skills.

“It’s to build community here on campus, to work with the employees of CSI and Sodexo to help them with conversational English, being comfortable talking with students and for them to feel comfortable working with the students and to help them [the students] get a better understanding of the world,” Stephen Eberle, coordinator of community partnerships, said.

In addition to the dedicated students who attend these workshops, Diego Mejia, an employee of Sodexo, is also in regular attendance of the ¡Somos Cabrini! program.

Mejia is a native of Cali, Columbia, and has been a citizen of the United States for about two years.

“There are no opportunities in Columbia,” Mejia said.  “All the opportunities are here.”

Nearly fluent in English, Mejia’s primary reason for attending the workshops is to improve his reading and writing skills.

“I used to drive a motorcycle in Columbia,” Mejia said. “And I really want to get my license to drive one here.”

After hearing Mejia’s story of how he wishes to get his license, the students involved with ¡Somos Cabrini! have planned to get a copy of the manual and translate it into Spanish so that Mejia will be able to take the test.

The Wolfington Center, whose purpose is to encourage students to explore the world through personal connections with the poor and marginalized communities, has been looking to become involved within the immigration field for some time.

“We were trying to break into the immigrant field in Norristown [with immigrants], but it has been difficult to get into that community and build partnerships,” Eberle said.

“But then we looked around and realized that people are right here in our own campus community who were coming from different countries and were working here with us, and we thought what a better way than to exemplify Mother Cabrini’s work than to connect with people in our community,” Eberle said.

Brittany Ryan, junior Spanish major, and Katie Parks, junior Spanish major, are the two students who have been in charge of the program so far this year.

“I’m a Spanish major and I thought this would be a great learning experience,” Ryan said.  “Not only helping the CSI workers learn more English, but I have also been able to learn more Spanish from them.”

At each event held there has been a pretty successful turn out among the employees and also with Cabrini students looking to become involved.  At each session there has been anywhere from 10 to 20 people who have attended.

DJ Moran and Trevor Cross, freshmen biology majors, are just two of the several Cabrini students who regularly attend the workshops.

“It’s a great service opportunity,” Moran said.  “You learn a lot from them and they learn a lot from you.”

“The main reason I come to the workshops is because I wanted to have the opportunity to speak with Spanish-speaking people, to improve my Spanish and to help them with their English,” Cross said.  “I really like getting to know them [the employees].  They all are really nice and I really enjoy talking with them.”

In the first semester of ¡Somos Cabrini!, all of the people involved described the program as being successful, but they are hoping that they can expand it so that not only more people get involved, but so everyone in attendance is able to learn something new each time they attend.

“¡Somos Cabrini! is in the beginning stages,” Ryan said.  “But so far it has been really fun and we only plan on making it better as time goes on.”

For more information on ¡Somos Cabrini! contact the Wolfington Center.

Holly Prendergast

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