(l. to r.) Damiano Girona '16, Naoko Branker '15, Professor Patricia Reagan, Hannah
Pencook '16, Lindsey Matthews '15
Nearly 100 Randolph-Macon College students traveled abroad during January Term (J-term) 2013. But other students didn’t have
to go farther than Richmond for a cultural experience.
The 18 students enrolled in Spanish Professor
Patricia Reagan’s class, Spanish Service-Learning, gave 418 hours of service to
a variety of non-profit agencies serving Spanish speakers in Richmond, including
the Healthcare Clinic of Crossover Ministries, The Office of Multicultural Affairs,
the Legal Aid Justice Center and the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“This course serves three purposes,” says Reagan. “First, it gives students a chance
to fill a need in the community by volunteering in non-profit agencies that help
Spanish-speakers. Second, the hands-on practice brings the Spanish language alive
in a way that classroom practice cannot. Third, the in-class portion focuses on
Latino immigrants in the United States, the struggles they face, and the skills
that students need to communicate in the community.”
Reagan placed students in agencies where they could explore possible career interests.
Marianna Wills ’14, a Spanish major and
mathematics minor who is following a pre-med
track, worked at the Medical Clinic of Crossover ministries interpreting and translating
Reflecting on the experience, Wills says, “I am not only more confident in my ability
to speak Spanish, but also in my ability to understand the conditions of the Spanish-speaking
people who want to come to the United States for a better life. Interacting with
immigrants gave me a completely different outlook.”
The course allowed students to have experiences with cultures very different from
their own. Elanya Chin ’13, a philosophy
and international studies major
and ethics and Spanish minor, studied in Chile
in fall 2012. Chin likens Reagan’s course to her
study-abroad experience, as it pushed her out of her comfort zone.
“This course taught me that breaking out of my bubble can be as simple as driving
20 minutes into Richmond,” says Chin, who served at the City of Richmond Office
of Multicultural Affairs by translating and interpreting for clients. Like other
students, she found this course to challenge her limits, but she also found benefits
within those challenges.
“I learned that by giving more than I thought I could, I get it all back, through
smiles and personal growth,” she says. “My compassion for others has deepened simultaneously
with my insight into the struggles and goals of the Hispanic community in Richmond
Topics of the classroom included myths and facts about immigrants and the immigration
debate, the Latino population in the United States and in Virginia, border crossing,
and political issues such as immigration reform, deportations, deferred action and
the Dream Act.
“I intentionally overwhelmed students with as much information as possible about
Latino immigration in the United States,” says Reagan. “I then helped them sort
out their opinions while they were faced with the realities of immigrant issues
at their placement sites.”
Cheral Byron ’15 and Kristina Mitchell ’15, who
worked at the Legal Aid Justice Center, helped local Attorney Phil Storey educate
Latino apartment renters of their rights and responsibilities in Virginia.
“Affordable housing is a huge issue for low-income people generally, but immigrants
with limited English skills are especially vulnerable,” says Storey. “It was very
helpful to have Cheral and Kristina go to Latino shops and apartment complexes with
Latino renters, talking with them in Spanish and giving them our written materials,
which explain about how to protect their rights to fair and decent housing.”
Hannah Pencook ’16, who worked with the Virginia Hispanic Chamber
of Commerce, says that the legal clinic where she volunteered helped her draw conclusions
regarding the course material.
“This course changed me by putting real faces to the problem of immigration,” says
Pencook. “I met people who are trying their best to become legal residents, and
it really hit home that undocumented immigrants are hard-working people like anyone
The agencies where the students worked reaped significant benefits. Tanya Gonzalez,
manager of The City of Richmond Office of Multicultural Affairs, says, “It was great
to have Randolph-Macon students helping in the office. They assisted with a wide
range of tasks and they brought fresh perspectives, positive energy, and much needed
support to the OMA. Thank you to Professor Reagan and the students for their amazing