Benefit of having bilingual employee discussed

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Having a bilingual person on the Dubois County Extension Office’s staff would help in getting more Latino children active in the county’s 4-H program.

If there was such a person, she or he could also help other county offices assist Spanish-speaking residents.

Lisa Wilson of the extension office proposed to the Dubois County Commissioners Monday that a person be added to the staff to help the extension office in that endeavor.

“We could utilize them to translate our written documents into Spanish and our advertisements into Spanish,” Wilson said, “so that everybody knows what programming we have available in the county.”

The person would be a program assistant, assisting with current programs done by the office as well as running new ones.

Wilson explained that Dubois County has been approved to be a host site for the 4-H Juntos program. Juntos is geared to helping Latino students in grades eight to 12 and their families. The program’s goal is to provide them with knowledge and resources needed for academic success, to promote family engagement in the community and increase participation in available community activities and programs, like 4-H.

The agency has received $20,000 in grant money for the Juntos program, so a person can be hired to run it, she said. “But we’d like to hire a part-time person in our office that can help with all programming, not just for 4-H,” Wilson said, “and also be that liaison between the Juntos program at Southwest Dubois Schools and our office, so that we can expand our programming to everybody in the county.”

Wilson asked that an additional $15,000 be added to the extension office budget so that the person working on the Juntos program could also help with programming and translating. So the person would definitely be bilingual.

Chelsea Brewer, the extension office’s health and human sciences educator, said the Latino population makes up 8.7% of the county’s population; and 14.2% of them are children. She helps with nutrition, physical activity and social-emotional learning things beyond the school curriculum. “I can only teach so much myself,” she said. “If I had a bilingual program assistant, we could get the whole population through this. So right now, I’m only reaching about half of the students.”

That concerns her greatly.

“We have a little over 3,400 Hispanic people in Dubois County and their mortality rate for things like diabetes and fatty liver disease, which comes from obesity, is 50%, compared to you and [me],” Brewer said. “That right there is really scary. That’s 1,700 people in all of the Hispanic population got diabetes who could potentially die. And I can’t educate them on how to change their diet.”

Wilson said other counties have a bilingual person on their staff, and it has helped. “When I think about Spencer County and Davis County, they’ve been able to really expand their programming to the Hispanic community because they have been able to get someone on staff,” she said, “or work with their county to figure out that cultural difference that we have going on.”

She wants to do the same here.

“Why are they not attending our 4-H programs? There’s a cultural barrier there that we’re not able to get across,” she said. “And it’s less about us not speaking their language; it’s more about we don’t know what their needs are.

“It’s very difficult for us to reach them because we’re not a part of their community. And we’re not going to just jump in and become a part of their community,” Wilson said.

Commissioner Nick Hostetter wondered aloud if other departments in the county would also be able to utilize this same person’s bilingual skills.

And that started the conversation on the benefits of having a bilingual county employee.

“When I was in the treasurer’s office, there were many times that I would have preferred to have an adult to speak to instead of a 5-year old translating for grandpa,” said Commissioner Chad Blessinger, who used to be county treasurer. “You don’t know what you’re missing there [in the translation]. And we want to serve all the people in Dubois County.”

Wilson said the extension office is open to having such a person that could be utilized by all county offices.

“We need to have a connection there,” she said, “whether that is someone that’s hired for the whole county that we can all use in that way that can benefit all of our county offices, or someone just for our office that we can lend them out to a county office if they need.”

The commissioners wanted to get more information on how such a position would work and be shared, and to think about the idea a little more. They plan to discuss it again at their next meeting on Monday, June 21.

The commissioners also:

• Discussed the Dubois County Soil and Water District’s request to combine two part-time positions in its office into one full-time position. The office has a hard time filling one of the part-time openings. The person in the other position as resources manager is well utilized by the agency’s clients, including farmers, Brown explained. While Hostetter and Brames were open to the idea, Blessinger was not as convinced. His hesitation is in adding another full-time position, which would include providing benefits. He said he wanted some time to better review the request, to which the other commissioners agreed. The matter will be discussed at the commissioners’ June 21 meeting.

• Approved placing a school supplies donation box at the courthouse for Court-Appointed Special Advocates, also known as CASA. The supplies will be given to children in the program, CASA head Deena Hubler said.

• Approved closing a section of Park Street from 6 a.m. to midnight on Saturday, July 10, for the Haysville Sommerfest.

• Approved the annual request from the Strassenfest committee to use the bathrooms and areas around the courthouse for the festival, which is set for Aug. 5-8.




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