Winter 2007 > Scholarship

Beyond translation
By Jodi H. Beyeler

CV Image When senior Gabriela Tovar was deciding where to do her social work internship last year, she decided to stay in a community that has become home – in Elkhart at Roosevelt Elementary School, where 50 percent of the student body is Hispanic.

Tovar, who came to the United States eight years ago from Mexico, was supervised by the school social worker, Mary Yoder Holsopple ’76, who gave her opportunities to translate for testing and parent-teacher conferences, lead small groups of students for problem solving, teach social skills and meet with students for individual interventions.

“I learned from Mary that sometimes you just need to provide them with a coat, food or pencils,” Tovar said. “These are sometimes enough to solve a problem or meet a need.”

Working in her neighborhood was significant for Tovar. “Because you are a part of the community, people know that you emerged from them and are on the same level as them,” she said. “They know my background and they saw that I didn’t give up on my goal.”

That goal – going to college – involved learning English, working in factories and having a single mother willing to sacrifice in order to support her. “It was my goal since I was little and it gives me strength to overcome even when I receive criticism from others,” Tovar said. “I didn’t want to work in factories again.”

For Tovar, the internship was the opportunity to “put in practice all my social work book knowledge,” she said. “I felt prepared to deal with hard situations and I learned more than I expected.”

Though Tovar will graduate in April, last year’s internship experience has already put her in demand; it led to her being asked to be the parent liaison for Goshen Middle School, where she currently works, in addition to finishing college.

“I feel like I have to help my community; it is part of me,” Tovar said. “I don’t just want to see the need and do nothing.”