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Spanish-speaking students help FLC help Spanish-speaking families

The new El Centro de Muchos Colores website: en espanol!

The new El Centro de Muchos Colores website: en español!

Bienvenidos a El Centro de Muchos Colores!

That's the greeting visitors get on “El Centro en Español,” the new Spanish-language version of the homepage for El Centro de Muchos Colores, FLC's Hispano resource center. And soon, those Spanish-speaking visitors will be able to, with a single click, get a “Bienvenidos a Fort Lewis College!” greeting and essential information about the college in Spanish, as well.

“El Centro en Español” launched February 16, in time for El Centro's Latino College Day. The debut marked the culmination of nearly five months of translation and website building for the student-conceived and executed project. The new website also foreshadows efforts by the college as whole to improve online access for Spanish-speaking students and their families.

“The Spanish-language version of the El Centro website sends a message to prospective students and their families that the FLC campus culture is both inviting and supportive of the Hispanic community,” says Director of Admission & Advising Andy Burns. That messaging will be carried on as the college moves to translate other vital and useful webpages on the college's www.fortlewis.edu site.

“The new websites will be especially important for prospective students’ families, since a growing number of our first-generation college applicants come from Spanish-speaking families,” he says. “It can be challenging to explain the college admissions process to parents who are not fluent in English. So we want to break down those barriers to education, and that’s a good thing for Fort Lewis College to be doing.”

The El Centro translating and website-building project was more than just good for the college and prospective students and their families, though. The project was initiated and executed by El Centro's student staff, and the student volunteers involved had invaluable personal and professional experiences.

Three students volunteered in the Fall to take on the project. Two students fluent in Spanish tackled the translating, while an English major built the new website. The students researched Spanish-language sites at other schools for ideas on content and presentation, and before the site went live, it was proofed by a Spanish-speaking professor.

"It was good teamwork, and I feel the students have been really empowered because they're changing the way El Centro communicates with our bilingual and monolingual speakers,” says Shirena Trujillo-Long, El Centro's director. “They also learned some website development and how to get things out there, which will be important on their resumes.”

The students agree.

"It was really interesting," says Alfredo Chavarria, a Senior Athletic Training major from Leadville, Colorado, who worked on the translation. "The Southwest area has a really strong Spanish heritage, so I believe that El Centro is doing something very cultural and unique that relates to both the region and El Centro's identity as a multicultural resource center."

"This has been a very good experience for me personally," explains Jessee Martinez, a Sophomore English major from Pagosa Springs, Colorado, who built the "El Centro en Espanol" site as part of a Communications internship. "But it's also a very cool project because there are plenty of parents who can only read and write in Spanish, so with this Spanish website, it's much easier for them to see who we are as an organization and how we are able to help their son or daughter if they were to come here at FLC."

“Working on the website was a long and tedious project that definitely took a lot of patience,” says Magaly Torres, a Sophomore Athletic Training major from Mazon, Illinois, who also helped translate the site. “But I know I am part of a big change, a change to reach out to people who speak Spanish, a change in which we will possibly bring in more people to our school because they see we care to outreach to them.”

Most importantly, though, Trujillo-Long says, the experience showed both the campus community and the students themselves the value of the students' multilingual talents.

“They got to use their amazing language skills, which often times in other places in our society are not appreciated or valued, in a way that is helping others,” she says. “These students are paying it forward to the next generation that's coming, who will need a little more Spanish for their families.”

El Centro en  Español

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