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Rise in Mixteco families in Santa Maria prompts more school translation services

Posted at 4:11 PM, Oct 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-11 20:35:13-05

In Santa Maria, translation and interpretation services play a big part in keeping families up to date on their children's education.

The Santa Maria-Bonita School District says about 60% of their families list Spanish as their primary language spoken at home, while another 15% say their native tongue is the indigenous language Mixtec.

"It is not a problem, it is a great necessity that we face with the language barrier," said Santa Maria dad Francisco Lozano.

"For parents to be at a meeting where they don't understand what is being talked about, it creates a big problem," trilingual interpreter Vangelis Garcia told KSBY. "That is where we come in."

Ver esta noticia en español:

Aumento de familias mixteco en Santa María pide más servicios de traducción en escuelas

The team of interpreters in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District works to keep families informed during the school year by providing audio translations of board meetings, interpreting district flyers into Spanish, and sitting in on parent-teacher conferences.

"When families enroll their children in our district, they fill out paperwork and we ask what language they speak at home," said Tammie Castillo-Shiffer, the district's coordinator for Family and Community Engagement.

She says there has been a recent increase in families whose primary language is Mixtec, prompting district interpreters like Garcia to learn the language for themselves.

"When I tell them I am learning, I always get a nice reaction because they are surprised someone is taking the time to learn their language and address them in the language they understand, and that makes them feel welcome," Garcia said.

Lozano is fluent in both Spanish and Mixtec, but not in English. He says more translation services have become available since his kids first started school but that there is still room for improvement.

"Yes, we have interpreters, like one or two. But when I go to conferences, I think it is more difficult because there are teachers who aren't bilingual," said Lozano, whose quotes have been translated into English for this article.

The district also has plans to establish new family resource centers across town directed at providing additional help to families facing language barriers.

"Those little hubs on the school campus will allow them to access health resources and it will allow them to access other social services," Castillo-Shiffer said.

It is expected that three new family resource centers will be open by Christmas.

"It is not that we want to put a great problem for the district," Lozano added. "We want to be part of this necessity. We want to work together, between them and parents to make things a lot better."

The Santa Maria-Bonita School District has also started partnering with the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District and MICOP to host Mixteco Parent Advisory meetings. There, district families can hear about student and parent resources spoken in the Mixtec language.

The next meeting is set for November 15, from 6-8 p.m. at the Santa Maria Veterans Memorial.