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  • Writer's pictureBayLeigh Routt

My AmeriStory

AmeriCorps Week (March 11th-17, 2018) is a celebration of the programs and organizations that make this national service initiative possible in thousands of locations across the country. The focus this year is to celebrate the members who have committed to “Get Things Done” since the program’s inception in 1994. For that reason, AmeriCorps members across the country are sharing their stories about their service, whether they are sharing highlights from the past or big moments of growth from their current term. This week the Plantory will feature individual “AmeriStories” from their cohort of VISTA Network members serving dozens of nonprofit organizations in Lexington, KY.

In August 2017, I started serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA for a local 501(c)3 nonprofit; for as long as I can remember, I have always been passionate about volunteering and helping others, I never quite pictured how this passion would transfer into my professional life. Helping others help themselves has always been very important to me, which, I think, is a very important mindset to have in this field. Below I have shared my AmeriStory, and I hope it sheds some light on the importance of this work.

Lexington, in many ways, is a city that has a small town feel combined with big city vibes. It is a lively city full of community partnerships, vibrant art, and a variety of remarkable local businesses and restaurants; with that in mind, the nickname “Athens of the West” seems pretty fitting for Lexington. In addition, the Lexington area is an incredibly linguistically diverse region, meaning that the city’s population has a myriad of needs. Having such a diverse population means that it can sometimes be difficult to ensure that its people are properly assisted, especially when there are language barriers that must be overcome in everyday encounters or urgent situations. This is why the work that the nonprofit I serve is so crucial.

The Kentucky Interpreter and Translator Association (KITA) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that helps build infrastructure for the more than 153 languages spoken in the Commonwealth and advocates for qualified interpreters and translators in medical, legal, community, government, school, nonprofit, and other settings. The Association provides continuing education opportunities and an open forum for interpreters and translators to exchange ideas and experiences. KITA also offers medical interpreter training in order to facilitate access to health care and other fundamental services for Limited-English Proficient community as well as the Deaf and hard of hearing community. KITA promotes professionalism and public awareness of the importance of providing quality interpretation and translation services. Through these proactive measures, KITA helps bilingual individuals learn how to work and interpret in a professional setting as well as utilize their skill set to serve their community and become a viable, informed interpreter.

As the Language Access Outreach Specialist, I am very happy to serve with an organization that cares about a lot of the same things that matter to me. In my position, I help promote KITA within the community and online. I regularly attend various community events (such as health fairs or multicultural festivals) in order to promote the resources and training opportunities that KITA offers interpreters and translators. In addition, it is also very important be active within the community and professionals working in this field, which is why I plan monthly interpreter meet-ups and fundraisers. The interpreter meet-ups offer those within the field a chance to meet regularly, learn about job opportunities, share ideas and experiences, consult about best practices, and learn about training opportunities and resources. It is also my responsibility to assist with the registration process for the medical interpreter training that KITA provides; this means that I assist with the creation of the registration and scholarship application forms, respond to the candidates emails or calls, collect the necessary forms from the candidates, and direct them to the necessary steps they must complete.

By serving as the AmeriCorps VISTA for the Kentucky Interpreter and Translator Association, I am able to help improve language access across the Commonwealth by helping promote KITA’s education opportunities and the crucial role of professional interpreters and translators. Serving as a VISTA member has given me the chance to be a part of a mission that means a great deal to me while simultaneously helping a community I have been a part of for most of my life. I have gotten to learn about and understand my community in a way I hadn’t before, and it’s been amazing getting to know members of my community that I may not have met otherwise. Although my term with VISTA is not over yet, I am excited to see how this experience will help me grow as a leader and person, so that I can be an active community member wherever I live.


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