Bilingual interpreters graduate from new program
Graduates from the newly established Spanish Medical Interpreter Program at Berkeley City College rejoiced as they received their certificates of achievement.
“These are the 9 students who were a part of the success, we are here to enjoy the celebration as they are the first graduates of the program,” Jose Martin, program coordinator, said during the ceremony that took place on Dec 14.
The three-semester program includes courses on topics such as cultural brokerage, medical terminology and boundaries and ethics. Crucial to the program are “Medical Interpreting Internships” that consist on volunteering at local clinics and hospitals where students meet with professional interpreters and are coached while learning.
“These are the protégés of staff, teachers, clinics and hospitals, where the students have done their internships,” Martin said. “Courses and hours of clinical and service learning totaling 2,000 volunteer hours.”
Anna Olivarez-Levinson and Zuleica Gutierrez both agreed the hours of commitment and the rigorous coursework were difficult, considering both were returning students with family obligations. Both were happy to complete the program given the obstacles with which they were confronted.
Berkeley City College President Deborah Budd congratulated students by sharing her memories with the audience when she was a working adult and returning student as well. She went on to quote writer J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement speech:
“The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won.”
During the ceremony, class spokesperson Maria Vigil shared her personal experience about how she wanted to study nursing, but at the time the wait was long, so she decided to add to her skills and address the need in the Latino community for medical interpreters.
“Many Latino people should know having an interpreter is a right and it’s free,” Vigil said. She continued explaining how she just got into a medical assisting program while she continues to apply for a nursing program. She hopes she’ll be working as a medical assistant with her newly added interpreting skills.
Berkeley City College’s Curriculum Committee and the California Community College’s Chancellor’s Office approved the appropriate curriculum to meet the specific qualifications needed in the medical field for Spanish interpreters. Graduates will be able to work in hospitals and clinics in the Bay Area.
Martin said the next step for the program is to expand it into other languages and get national certification.
“Not only will they be facilitating conversation between the patient and the medical provider, but it will help build bridges of understanding of cultural background,” Martin said.