In their small office tucked into a corner of Greenville Technical College, Adela Mendoza and Sara Montero-Buria of the Hispanic Alliance are hard at work focusing on a solution for a mounting issue in Greenville County: how to successfully connect Greenville County with the booming Hispanic population, and vice versa. Businesses, government, the school system, the healthcare system, nonprofits, and the faith community are only a few of the systems seeking strategies to successfully engage the Hispanic community. Likewise, the Hispanic population is seeking active participation in the community; and Adela and Sara sit at the nexus of all of it.
Despite being minimally staffed, the Hispanic Alliance is moving forward in its mission to enrich the quality of life in our community by coordinating initiatives and building collaborations among service providers, the Hispanic members of our community, and the community at large. Says Executive Director Adela Mendoza, “We bring together this vast array of partners to find an answer to a question that is vital to the future growth of Greenville County: How can we help support the Hispanic community while engaging the community at large in a healthy cultural exchange?”
This is not networking for networking’s sake; these meetings among such diverse groups of partners serve a vital purpose. People coming together allows organizations to share challenges and opportunities with one another, and helps create partnerships and relationships among organizations that might not otherwise work with one another. The Hispanic Alliance’s innovative model for collaboration is delivering a tremendous impact on Greenville’s ability to engage the Hispanic population. One great example is Greenville Technical College, which worked with the Hispanic Alliance to adapt its marketing strategy and enrollment process to reach the Hispanic population. The college saw an increase of 32.2% of in Hispanic students enrolled, from 762 students (5.3%) in 2011 to 1007 (8.0%) in 2014. This number has grown to 3,504 for the spring semester of 2016. Another example is the Greenville Free Medical Clinic’s partnership with the Hispanic Alliance, established in 2014, to address systemic barriers to language access services for patients with limited English proficiency. The creation of the “Volunteer Health Interpreter Project” has given access to health services to over 500 patients in the past two years engaging eight trained volunteers who donate an average of 36 hours every month.
The Hispanic Alliance gained focus when it began noticing that organizations lacked engagement strategies for the Hispanic population. Individual organizations not oriented to the many different Hispanic cultures did not know culturally appropriate ways to engage the Hispanic community, or they did not have the language proficiency on staff to help them work with clients who are not English proficient. This left many agencies in our community unable to address a growing need, and many residents of Greenville County unable to access services which they desperately needed.
And this is where Hispanic Alliance provides a solution with its networking sessions. At these sessions, partners assist each other through their issues and talk about all the different ways that they can partner to find the best way to serve the population. This is the kind of collaboration that is most effective in producing real impact and real change in our communities.
The goal of the Hispanic Alliance’s networking strategy is to narrow the gaps — between agencies and their clients as well as between different agencies. The Hispanic Alliance offers bilingual support for agencies working with the Hispanic community and helps ensure that these agencies work in a culturally appropriate manner so that they are better able to build trust in a community that is often removed from the Greenville County community at large. The Hispanic Alliance works to bridge the gap between the Hispanic community and the Greenville community by celebrating the Hispanic culture and embracing the diversity of Greenville County.
Information about the next Hispanic Alliance meeting in June is located here. These meetings are a great opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and organizations to coordinate resources and strategies within the Hispanic population.
Written by Luke Crumbaker