Luisa Vance, Bilingual Community Liaison 


Elizabeth Ramirez, Guest Contributor

In late March, I interviewed Luisa Vance, a staff member in the San Rafael High School community. It was my first time interviewing someone, I felt excited and nervous. 

“I am a link between the school and the community,” said Luisa Vance. Vance is a strong young woman who cares about her community and young people in school. She is loving towards the people around her and makes them smile. She works as a Bilingual Community Liaison at San Rafael High School, which means she interprets for families at meetings and in conferences. She also interprets and works for IEP kids with special education services.     

Luisa is the kind of person who cares about her community. Luisa says, “I represent them and try to be a voice for their needs. I help the students and families to feel that they belong here and that they are part of our school community.”

I also spoke to Mrs. Bolig who teaches Learning Lab at SRHS. She told me that, “Luisa is a wonderful person to work with,” and I agreed.

I was in Davidson for three years as a student, and Mrs.Vance was a staff member at Davidson at the time. Seeing her on campus made me feel a sense of belonging in the school. She helped me and many students who can’t speak a lot of English and helped our parents understand the school community. “I help families to connect with services. I help students, always making them feel welcome and loved,” said Luisa

Before Luisa started working in the school community she worked as a nanny for many years and went to school to learn English at the same time. Going to school in the United States was amazing and a great opportunity for her. It was hard for her to learn English, but once she started learning more, suddenly she knew that working in the education field was for her and that started her on her path looking for a job in schools and helping people. 

I was surprised to discover that Vance didn’t have any special training for her job as an interpreter. “I was lucky and like to work with people and help them. The person that helped me at Davidson is Morena Parada. She was my mentor,” she told me.  

Throughout all her hard work for 5 years in Davidson, she built more confidence and helped the community. Now working in San Rafael High she knows how to make students feel like they belong in school. This is partly because of all the support and learning she took from Morena Parada, her mentor. 

Luisa grew up in Colombia. She was born in 1984. She went to a public school named Universidad de Antioquia, (it is named the same thing in English and in Spanish). She mentioned school was crazy and wild. The students had violent protests with polices. They would be in class and bombs were exploding outside of the windows. When I heard about the bombs flying out, my thoughts were that that is too much for students to take in while learning.

I asked, “Were you even scared?” 

She answered, “No, I was a teen at that time and I wasn’t… But, something good that I got from my university is education,” she said, laughing. Seeing her eyes made me see a remarkable woman who cares a lot.

It’s been a long story for Luisa since she left her home in Columbia when she was 24 years old. She did not want to come to the U.S. at all at first but now it is her home, even though she still misses Columbia a lot. Taking care of kids and going to school to learn English is a process. Now, looking at her working on community service she says something that influenced her the most and helped her to move forward is this quote, “Si Se Puede” from Cesar Chavez. Cesar Chavez is well known as an influencer for thousands of people during labor.  

This year has been a change and a challenge for her. She is the only one who translates for families at school. A challenge she faces in the San Rafael Community is the issue of racism. She says about Latinx students, “Kids think being Hispanic is bad or shameful because of their culture or how they talk or where their parents come from,” she mentioned. What she meant is that she sees young people feel ashamed because speaking two languages can be an embarrassment for them. So her work is to make students and parents belong in this wonderful community that becomes one. She wants to make a change for her race in this community.

Last year and this year have been a challenge for her. “Being in many meetings over there has been hard and really busy days,” she said. It really makes her feel exhausting. Another challenge that she mentioned that makes her the only person doing [bilingual translation], only focusing on one thing little by little at a school with 1400 students. At the same time, she believes in developing connections with students. An example is learning people’s names and getting to know them. She likes to interact with them and have relationships with real communication. Making great connections with workers at school, with parents, and most importantly the students in school. 

Working with students makes her feel more important. She is confident with students and parents. She’s happy seeing kids growing up and seeing them making a change in their life. Mostly she likes to work with young people. She hopes that she can accomplish helping kids put their education first. The key is welcoming them, making them belong here (SRHS). She wants to help many students, and be a good model for students and their community.

This community changed her life and now she works hard to achieve her dreams and has plans for a couple of years. Her plan for the future is to go to a school to get a higher-level degree. She wants to also either study Philosophy, become a social worker, or International Relations. And, she still wants to help students and parents. She wants to see the students that she works with graduate, and get higher education for themselves.