Community Through Heritage

Mentoring efforts with Ball State University’s advanced Spanish course aims to provide resources to heritage speakers at Warsaw Community High School

Editor's Note: Miguel Naranjo, Associate Lifestyles Editor, and Evan Chandler, Managing Print Editor, were involved with this project as students taking SP305 in the Fall 2022 semester.

On Sept. 30, Latinx students from Warsaw Community High School (WCHS) visited Ball State University to receive information regarding opportunities that will help advance their education. 

The heritage speaker visit was hosted by Ball State’s Spanish for Heritage Speakers (SP305) course which guided 76 students with an itinerary consisting of a campus tour, an interactive activity with the Latinx Student Union as well as presentations on academic programs and financial aid. 

As stated by the course description, SP305 is designed for native and heritage Spanish speakers. In a tweet from the Ball State advising department, the class aims to meet the needs and interest of Latinx students, celebrate the rich linguistic and cultural assets of heritage speakers through the efforts of a community project intended to promote bilingualism and offer support for Latinx individuals in public schools. 

These efforts were achieved through the heritage speaker visit which enabled individuals in the SP305 course to promote the importance of visibility at a collegiate level.  

“One of the important things of being at a university that is a predominantly white institution is the sense of belonging for underrepresented, minority students,” Chin-Sook Pak, associate professor of Spanish at Ball State, said.

Over the years, the course has evolved since its introduction in 2015, yet the agenda has remained the same — focusing on assets minority students can bring to the university as opposed to their deficiencies. This includes working on different community projects to connect with other Spanish speakers in other communities, Pak said.

“Giving them opportunities while serving shows that they are in a place of power offering useful support for community building instead of feeling that they are minorities who barely made it to college and need extra support,” Pak said.

Eduardo Alvarez-Aguilar (right) with his mentee from Warsaw Community High School (left) Sept. 30, 2022. They are both from Puerto Rico and spent most of the visit together. Robbie Mehling, Photo Provided

Through her time of instructing the course, Pak interacted with several of her students who expressed they were not granted adequate resources or support while in high school. 

Upon this realization, Pak made the decision to partner with WCHS, a school that has a large Hispanic population, to lend a helping hand to high school heritage speakers where students enrolled in the course serve as role models to show the high school mentees that “they too can make it, despite many challenges.”

In addition to pursuing careers and opportunities that the students may have never thought were possible for them, Pak said she hopes the visit was empowering and resourceful enough for students to see a diverse environment such as Ball State and consider the institution as their future home.

“Being a heritage speaker of Korean, I know firsthand what it is to grow up in a bilingual, bi-cultural setting, where you do not belong in the dominant society,” Pak said. “In this way, I feel like I can connect with my students to constantly learn about people of other worlds and encourage them to consider [Ball State] as a safe place to explore their identity.”

A group of students from Warsaw Community High School taking a campus tour Sept. 30, 2022. The students also viewed a presentation from the Financial aid office regarding scholarships. Robbie Mehling, Photo Provided

In addition to promoting Ball State as an ally of inclusion, the visit expanded its effort to the Ball State community, which provided the Latinx Student Union (LSU) an opportunity to contribute. 

“LSU was more than happy to help and participate in this event,” Alvaro Lagunas, a third-year student and secretary of the Latinx Student Union, said. “We wanted to teach about Hispanic Heritage month since a lot of people are uninformed of it, especially in high school. With the help of the treasurer of LSU, we explained the importance of this month through values of leadership, teamwork and the value of being together, which allowed us to incorporate a team-building activity that allowed everyone to have fun.”

The event strengthened the influence in SP305 as well as the Latinx Student Union to build a means of community at Ball State, showing Latinx high school students the importance of their heritage. In the future, the immersive learning program hopes to expand its influence among other schools to showcase the importance of valuing one's heritage and visibility. 

“We [Latinx individuals] need to be visible and seen on a daily basis, so even attending the event shows that we care about the students from WCHS and value their mentality for finding a way to pursue advancing opportunities,” Lagunas said.

Contact KwaTashea Marfo with comments at or on Twitter @mkwatashea.

Contact Karla Toledo with comments at or on Twitter @jazzbee626.


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