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One of the newest pathway programs at Santa Barbara Unified is celebrating its first graduating class.

The Interpretation/ Translation program at Santa Barbara High School is the first of its kind in California.

The class teaches students how to use their bilingual skills in English and Spanish to bridge the communication gap between people.

The program boasts a lengthy list of industry partners who volunteer as guest speakers and offer to host field trips for students, such as a Translation class at CSUCI and observing a graduate-level class from The Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Students also learn about entrepreneurship and marketing from local guest speakers and have the opportunity to shadow the district’s own Language Access Unit at district/school events.

The class focuses on the basics of translation and interpretation, including the code of ethics, professionalism, and different industries where these skills can be used. 

“My first language is Spanish, and I just wanted to sharpen my knowledge of it. I don’t speak at school too much, and so I really wanted to incorporate it into my everyday life more than just speaking it at home,” said senior Juliana Bermudez.

Teacher Alison Mendoza said she tailors the exercises and curriculum to students’ interests in future careers, such as medical or legal jobs.

“I think watching a lot of them come out of their shells or gain a lot of confidence has been a big part of it for us,” said Mendoza when talking about how her students have grown since they started the program. “We really promote both the translation interpretation field and being bilingual wherever you go, in whatever you do. We want students to know that language access is really something that we should all focus on everywhere.”

Senior Emily Morua says the class helped her gain confidence in a language she already knew. 

“Spanish has always kind of been involved in my life. It was my first language doesn’t necessarily mean it’s my strongest language, but I know it’ll definitely help out in the future, In general,” said Morua.

“Having the bilingual ability to communicate is critical to helping people understand complex fields like health care, law, and business. In some instances, having a translator can make a difference in getting someone proper medicine or understanding complex agreements and legal issues. Regardless of what these students do next in their lives, the skills they picked up will be useful and impactful,” said Dr. Hilda Maldonado, Superintendent.

Next year, the Translation/ Interpretation Pathway will launch a third class that will give more students tools to continue engaging in language access in their community. They’re also considering adding a certification component.

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