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Spanish Translation Project Assists Valley Crisis Center

January 27, 2015

In the fall semester, UC Merced Senior Lecturer Virginia Adán-Lifante offered extra credit to students who volunteered to translate a portion of the Valley Crisis Center website into Spanish.

The opportunity reflected Adán-Lifante’s longstanding commitment to service learning. And on a campus that strongly values public service, volunteers were motivated less by the classroom reward than the chance to help the center, which advocates for change and provides services to those affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.

“I really liked the cause,” said Lourdes Diaz, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Bakersfield. “If I can help out on a translation for a company that helps out other people, then I will do it.”

Diaz is one of seven students in Adán-Lifante’s two Spanish classes who accepted and completed the work for the Merced-based center. Adán-Lifante said she always tries to provide opportunities for her students to connect with the community.

“I want my students to do some kind of service learning,” she said. In the past, her students have worked with autistic children, spent time as tutors and helped at the Fairmead community center.

Last summer, Adán-Lifante reached out to the Valley Crisis Center while teaching a class about domestic violence in the Hispanic culture. By the fall semester, she and Valley Crisis Center Program Director Meghan Kehoe agreed on a translation project.

Kehoe said the nonprofit center is creating a Spanish-language version of its English website. It’s an important project, because about 70 percent of the center’s clientele is Spanish-speaking, she said.

Students from Adán-Lifante's two fall classes — Hispanic cultures and Spanish linguistics — took on the task of translating the “How We Help” section of the site. In addition to Diaz, the volunteers were Rocio Medrano Calderon, Kevin Salinas, Yarikza Comparan, Mayra Reyes, Elvy Banuelos and Jessica Avalos.

Medrano, a sophomore biology major from Bakersfield, wanted to help. She understands the difficulty in comprehending the written form of another language because her first language is Spanish.

For the project, Adán-Lifante assigned specific portions of the “How We Help” section to each student. She reviewed their work to ensure that the translation, grammar and spelling were correct. It wasn’t a simple project.

“It was extremely difficult, because there was a lot of legal translation,” she said. “It was a very involved project.”

Kehoe said the students’ work was invaluable. Without their help, she said, staff members might have been pulled away from clients to create the translations.

In addition, the project allowed for an educational opportunity and more conversation about domestic violence. Historically, she said, those discussions take place behind closed doors.

The center is continuing to work on the Spanish version of its website, and Kehoe said she might again ask for help from UC Merced.

“I’m beyond thrilled to have this resource,” she said.