Helping the community through the classroom

Along with health concerns, the pandemic brought about worries about jobs, finances, housing, and more, especially for immigrant communities. That’s why Anthony Erlinger and Kathleen Flores decided to help.

The two participated in SPAN 232: Spanish in the Community, where they used their language skills to help communities in Champaign-Urbana. The work allowed them to practice their Spanish, but it also allowed them to learn directly from the people they were supporting.

Anthony Erlinger

Anthony ErlingerJunior in Spanish and global studies, served at Immigrant Services of Champaign-Urbana

It’s been a really hard time for everyone, but especially for the immigrant community in Champaign-Urbana. [In my position], if they contracted the virus, we would provide them with healthcare, but also rental and utility assistance, food, and transportation. For me, having grown up in Champaign-Urbana, to be able to work in the community that’s provided me my livelihood, my memories as a kid—that’s a really special thing. Hearing their stories, their struggles, and triumphs really widens your perspective about who we are as a community and what we can continue to do to better ourselves.

I’m thinking about going to grad school for Spanish literature and culture and am considering doing more work with nonprofits. I’m not quite sure yet, but I definitely want to pursue something where I’ll be able to continue to use my Spanish. My goal is to keep traveling, keep exploring, keep learning languages, keep practicing my Spanish, and just keep getting to know people in different places.

Kathleen Flores

Kathleen FloresSenior in Spanish and psychology, served at The Refugee Center in Champaign

At The Refugee Center, we were there to assist them with all the confusing paperwork and help lift some of the financial burden off their shoulders. It allowed me to research and observe firsthand the different patterns that were happening within the immigrant community here, and how the community was ultimately affected by COVID-19.

I want to apply to medical school. I think I want to gear more towards medical volunteering, but I’ll still definitely use Spanish wherever I go. I like science, and I want to hopefully practice medicine one day. I would see myself doing that either here or in a Spanish-speaking country, and just keep improving my language skills and meeting new people.

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Anthony Erlinger & Kathleen Flores