A recent event on the Macon campus offered support to the Hispanic community while providing Mercer University students with hands-on learning opportunities. The second Hispanic Education Fair, hosted on Feb. 18, provided prospective students and their families with information and resources in Spanish.
The event was hosted by Spanish lecturer Libertad Aranza and Tracy Martinez, assistant director of admissions and athletic recruitment, and Aranza’s business Spanish class played a vital role in the event.
Twenty-three students in the course created a poster for the Bear Bazaar, which showcased Mercer’s schools and colleges, programs, student clubs, organizations and research opportunities, and one student created a video recap of the fair.
Some of the students provided translation and interpretation services to groups and organizations with tables there. They participated in a workshop and discussions prior to the event to learn how to best translate some of the specialized terms. It was a challenge, but the students made a huge impact, Aranza said.
“Students are not just learning in the class but get to apply their language,” she said. “It’s fulfilling in a lot of ways. I want students to see they have potential. They have to get outside their comfort zone.”
Senior Kimberly Lopez, a Spanish and mechanical engineering double-major, created a poster about Mercer On Mission and helped translate financial aid information for the Georgia Futures representative at the bazaar. Georgia Futures is an online college resource guide from the Georgia Student Finance Commission, and Aranza’s students translated a PowerPoint presentation for the commission earlier in the semester.
Lopez, whose parents are from Mexico, said she has done informal interpretation for members of her family, but this was her first time providing professional interpretation, which gave her more experience providing detailed context. It also showed her how she can give back to the Hispanic community.
A few students gave campus tours in Spanish, and 10 students shared their stories and perspectives with attendees during a panel discussion. Lopez, who also participated in the panel, said she spoke about her experience applying to Mercer and the relationships she has built with her professors. In addition to the business Spanish class, about 15 other Mercer students helped with the fair.
“It’s really impressive to see all they’ve learned in Aranza’s class and how much they know. They’re not natives, but they spoke about their experiences at Mercer. They replied back in Spanish, and they spoke so well,” Martinez said. “Parents love to hear students’ stories and hear what they’re doing, especially when it’s in their own language. On the admissions side, this helps us support our Hispanic community and also our students here.”
When Hispanic families attend typical college admissions events, parents are often hesitant to ask questions because of the language barrier, and their children spend a lot of time translating for them. With Mercer’s Hispanic Education Fair hosted fully in Spanish, parents were eager to ask questions and able to gain an in-depth understanding of the University’s offerings and admissions processes, while their children were able to give the workshops their full attention, Aranza and Martinez said. The event also showed prospective students that there are people on campus who come from similar backgrounds as them, Lopez said.
Aranza and Martinez also led college prep and financial aid workshops for the attendees, who were mostly from Middle Georgia. The goal is to reach students early in high school, so they and their parents will become familiar with the admissions process and know what they need to do in subsequent years, Martinez said. They often don’t receive this information at their high schools, and the Hispanic Education Fair aimed to fill that gap.
Aranza remembers the struggles she had as a high-school student looking toward college.
“I went to school in Mexico, so I came back here when I was 15. I didn’t know anything about AP classes, dual enrollment, and my dad didn’t know anything,” she said. “Parents don’t know how to help them through this process. The idea is to be a bridge of communication, to teach parents that this is how you can support your child. That’s one of the main goals.”
Aranza said the fair, which she and Martinez hope to continue hosting each year, is also a way to build community on campus with Mercer’s Hispanic students. In reflecting on the event, many of her students mentioned how much they enjoyed having the opportunity to speak Spanish with Hispanic community members.
“I think the event was valuable because it shows the importance of the Hispanic community on campus,” Lopez said. “When I applied to Mercer, this wasn’t a thing. I would have felt more inclined to go to Mercer, and (the campus) would have felt more inviting. I remember for me, it took a while to find people who were like me on campus.”