Bridging a Language Barrier

Sandy Arreguin '05 and Armando Salinas '13 work together at the Friendship House, a Peoria nonprofit that provides a variety of services to the community.

By Frank Radosevich II
March 19, 2013

When Sandy Arreguin ’05 began searching for an intern to volunteer at the Friendship House, a Peoria-based nonprofit, she found what she was looking for at her alma mater.

Arreguin, who directs the organization’s Latino outreach and advocacy, case management and education programs, needed someone who could help bridge the language barrier for its Spanish-speaking clients. She found that connection in criminal justice major Armando Salinas '13.

“We’re like the yellow pages of the Latino community,” Arreguin said of the Friendship House. “So to have an intern like Armando, especially with the skills that he has, is very helpful. It makes everything we do for our clients a lot easier.”

Arreguin estimated about 90 percent of the clients visiting with Salinas only speak Spanish, so his language and personal skills are key to helping them navigate through language barriers, legal procedures and cultural differences. Salinas said he enjoys the work and getting to know the clients.

“We have mostly Hispanic families who come in, and our job is to help them with any kind of service, whether it’s translating documents, offering advice or filling out an application,” said Salinas, who spends three afternoons a week volunteering at the Friendship House’s offices in Peoria. So far, he has critiqued resumes, helped complete job applications and assisted clients in the nonprofit’s food pantry.

Salinas' internship is part of Bradley's greater mission of service to the Peoria community and beyond. Student groups and University events, such as the Bradley Fellows, the Volunteer Fair and Service on Saturday, provide students with dozens of options to work with various community agencies and their specific volunteer needs. For instance, during the 2011-12 academic year, Bradley hosted six Service on Saturday events and saw more than 670 students volunteer more than 2,000 hours of community service.

Salinas said his classes at Bradley have helped him learn about the legal challenges people can face. In fact, he found his internship through a professor who taught Arreguin and him as undergraduates at Bradley.

“It is rewarding to have an alumna come back to campus and seek out Bradley students to serve as interns for her organization,” said Dr. Craig Curtis, associate professor of political science, who teaches classes for the criminal justice major. “When Sandy contacted me about this internship, Armando was one of the first students that I thought about as a good fit for the organization.”

Salinas said the overall experience has made him a more well-rounded person and has given him a unique perspective to the world of social services. He hopes to expand his role at the Friendship House by accompanying clients to court or conducting home visits.

“You gain a lot of experience,” Salinas said of this internship. “There are so many services that you learn a little bit of everything.”