| by Mark C. Anderson

News Stories

Students collaborate in Community class.
Students share language tips and collaborate in the Spanish in the Community class. (Credit: Tom Wang )

Sarahí Juarez had a good feeling the Middlebury Institute would help her land a great job. 

And Juarez MATI ’24 had good reasons to believe that. The Institute’s strong postgraduation employment rates were a factor that drew her there in the first place. 

But she didn’t expect her classwork would help others find gainful work.

That’s the case, thanks to a recent collaboration with Monterey County Free Libraries. 

Associate Professor Gabriel Guillén helped spearhead the endeavor through his Spanish in the Community class, which brings together Institute students learning Spanish with Spanish speakers who are learning English with Jaimee De Pompeo MATESOL ’15 at Hartnell Community College in Salinas. 

This fall, the students teamed up to develop a bilingual job seeker’s guide distributed through the library.

“I was excited and optimistic to be responsible for this,” said Juarez. 

“The project gives us the opportunity to learn and produce something more impactful, as language learners and language users,” said Guillén. “It makes communication real. Students know they’re doing something meaningful with language.”

Spanish in the Community class
Sarahí Juarez and Ola Pozor in the Spanish in the Community class, fall 2023.   (Credit: Gabriel Guillén )

Student Ola Pozor said the most rewarding aspect of the experience was getting to know people she would never have met otherwise, on a deeply human level.

“I gained unique life perspectives from each of them,” said Pozor. “We shared stories, family traditions, goals, challenges, values, and aspirations, learned about each other’s cultures, and explained new expressions in both English and Spanish. It deepened my intercultural competence, expanding my understanding and empathy toward all people who have had very different journeys and work very hard to improve their skill sets and empower their communities. It was all very inspiring and humbling.”

The guide spotlights elements like “tech tips,” “the interview process,” “hiring areas,” and “how to apply for a job”—all nestled under the motto, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

The real-world element resonates with Juarez.

“As a daughter of Mexican immigrants, I grew up knowing friends and family who struggled to find jobs due to varied reasons, such as lack of English language skills or tech knowledge, so the fact that we created a bilingual resource with these topics in mind was particularly rewarding for me,” she says. “This has been one of the coolest projects I’ve gotten to work on here.” 

She notes that most of her translations and interpretations serve as valuable practice, but in a more abstract way. 

“It was great to create something for the community and with members of the community,” she says.

Students from Institute and Community college meet
Students from the Middlebury Institute and Hartnell Community College meet weekly for language exchange. (Credit: Gabriel Guillén )

Sarah Hoeffel coordinates the program on the libraries side, in her role as adult literacy and volunteer services manager.

“We have a wide range of job seekers coming to our locations, some of whom are in the search process, have an email and a résumé, and need a little help,” she says. “On the other end of the spectrum are folks who are directed to us with a web address scrawled on a piece of paper and told by a business to apply.”

She’s thrilled to have something to empower them.

“Some of our clients have never used a computer before,” she adds. “This comprehensive pathfinder will help both ends of the job-seeking spectrum. It was fantastic to have input from English and Spanish native speakers on this collaboration.”

Juarez and Pozor both said the class helped them build the intercultural dexterity they’ll need to thrive, not only as professionals, but as contributing members of society.

“This goes beyond the professional ‘real-world’ training that MIIS promises,” said Juarez. 

Pozor adds, “It really encapsulates what this professional graduate school and its coursework is all about: applying language and technical skill sets to real-life deliverables that can serve a client, community in need, or global audience.”