COLUMBUS, Miss.– The struggles weren’t real to Jazmin Roman.

Jazmin Roman

As one of the top students in her class at Forest High School, Roman didn’t grasp how much some of her English Learner (EL) classmates struggled to complete their work.

It wasn’t until Roman participated in the Spanish Service-Learning Internship at Mississippi University for Women that she realized how hard it was for students who couldn’t speak, read or write in English to keep up with their peers.

“My internship with the Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District (SOCSD) really opened my eyes to the challenges many EL students face,” Roman said.

Not only did the internship open Roman’s eyes, but it also helped her take the next steps in her career. After she earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish (minor in Health Education) from The W, Roman took a job as an EL interventionist in the SOCSD. That position paved the way for her to take a job as an English as a Second Language (ESL) and a Spanish teacher at Forest High. Roman said she wouldn’t have been able to return to her roots if it wasn’t for the internship through The W.

“I worked with several students in fifth grade through high school,” said Roman, who was a member of the women’s soccer team at The W and is pursuing her master’s degree at the school. “I mostly went to Starkville High because there were four students who couldn’t read, speak or write in English to complete any of their school work. I helped them complete daily assignments while trying to teach them English.”

She used her Spanish skills to explain the assignments to the students and then helped them translate the answers to English. She said the experience helped her understand how to manage her time and to break schoolwork down into more understandable pieces.

Roman said the internship allowed her to transition easily into her role as EL interventionist. She said that work was a “great experience” and that she learned so much and increased her interest in helping students.

Dr. Reyna Vergara, an assistant professor of Spanish at The W, said the first priority in the Spanish program is to send students abroad because it provides them with full immersion in the language and culture. Given COVID and other hardships or responsibilities some students are encountering, the class needed alternative to the study-abroad experience for the Spanish major and the Spanish Education K-12 Certification requirement. As a result, in the spring of 2020, Vergara started teaching the internship as a special topic to explore the possibility of developing it into a new course. The course features 120 hours divided between theory and practice, and its enrollment has grown each year since inception.

“I have seen the internship evolve in very positive ways,” Vergara said. “This past spring, all three interns had another major. Two of them were double-majors and one was a minor who got accepted in the school of nursing that semester. It gave me great pleasure to see the interest that these interns had not only in serving the communities of Spanish-speaking descent presently, wherever there was a need, but also in their future careers. They wanted to learn terminology and be able to communicate in Spanish in their respective fields.”

Vergara said Roman was a “hands-on intern” who was aware and engaged with her surroundings and who helped co-workers and acquaintances by translating or advocating for them. She said Roman also tutored Spanish-speaking children in Columbus and after graduating worked as a direct supervisor for Sarah Grace Evans, the second intern from The W placed with SOCSD.

“We want our graduates, whether majors or minors, to be competitive in the job market and to provide valuable services to underrepresented members of their respective communities,” Vergara said. “At the end of her internship, Jazmin said one thing that stood out to me. She said she was ‘excited to get more active in the community.’ I know this internship can take some students out of their comfort zone, but as it was in her case, it also can awaken them to a new purpose.”   

Robert Brown, EL student services coordinator for the SOCSD, said all of the feedback about the interns and their work has been unanimously positive. He said all of the students have enjoyed working with the interns and their time together has helped them feel more welcomed and connected to the school.

“The internships are important to the students who are receiving help, but they’re also important to the teachers in the buildings where the interns are placed,” Brown said. “When an EL student has had academic difficulties in a teacher’s class, the teachers have worked with the interns to help these struggling students via more focused, individualized instruction. With the number of EL students nationwide growing every year, it’s difficult for individual districts to provide all the services to these students that we are required to supply. The interns from The W have excelled at helping us meet this ever-growing need.”

Roman plans to keep teaching for as long as she can so she can help as many EL students realize they can have a bright future if they do well in school.

“I would recommend other students to get involved with the internship program because it is an opportunity to grow and learn,” Roman said. “It is an experience that will help them see a different side in education.”

Students with questions about the Spanish Service-Learning Internship or the Spanish program can contact Dr. Vergara at​.

Aug. 23, 2022
Contact: Adam Minichino
(662) 329-1976

About The W

Located in historic Columbus, Mississippi, The W was founded in 1884 as the first state-supported college for women in the United States. Today, the university is home to 2,227 students in more than 70 majors and concentrations and has educated men for 40 years. The university is nationally recognized for low student debt, diversity and social mobility which empowers students to BE BOLD.

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