I graduated from Wofford in May 2016, and every time I reflect on my years as a college student, I realize that choosing to attend Wofford was one of the best decisions I made in my young adult life.
I am currently a middle school Spanish teacher at Florence Chapel Middle School in Duncan, South Carolina. I teach seventh and eighth graders, and, notwithstanding its many challenges, I am enjoying it thus far. The students are kind and appreciative, and they have demonstrated an ability to absorb information like sponges. This is gratifying.
Many people tell me that they could never do my job, and they have expressed their preferences to do anything other than teaching at a middle school. But, at this stage, I think it is the right fit for me. For some, middle school proved difficult, and this could be attributed to a number of factors that include not being able to make the requisite adjustment from elementary school to an environment where, suddenly, a student had to assume responsibilities that seemed so towering. As for me, middle school was one of my favorite journeys to a higher education. It was at this stage that I began to give thought to the possibility of becoming a teacher in a middle school. Now, I can’t say that I remember all the things I learned in middle school. However, learning was enjoyable, and I definitely enjoyed my time.
My first goal as a teacher is to make meaningful connections with my students. My second is to get them excited about what they are learning. I also want my students to connect what they are learning to their other classes and to their own lives. Whenever I hear one of my students say that they finally understand a concept, because they were able to connect it to something else, I cannot help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. It makes teaching rewarding. At the beginning of the year, I was teaching numbers 1-30 in Spanish. When we got to the number 15 (quince), one of my students said, “That’s like quinceañera!” I was over the moon, so to speak, because the student was able to connect what he was learning to something else. Learning is about connecting all the little things into one enlightening experience. This is what makes learning so worthwhile and beneficial.
Majoring in Spanish at Wofford really helped to prepare me for my current job as a Spanish teacher. I find myself able to share my study abroad stories or point out grammar mistakes that I used to make. I readily warn my students not to make the same mistakes.
Currently, my students are researching the country of Argentina, and it’s amazing how all of my experiences in Argentina have come flooding back. This particular assignment is most fascinating in that it provides the opportunity for me to talk about my travels. In doing so, my students have shown a great interest in comparing and contrasting their culture with that of others, and specifically, the Argentine way of life. They also have posed a number of questions - some of which I am unable to answer. Still, I continue to use our frequent exchanges as occasions to encourage them to study abroad, should the opportunity arise, knowing that they will have many of their questions answered.
As a Spanish major and Presidential International Scholar, I had the unique experience of studying abroad for two semesters and an interim, visiting eight Latin American countries over the course of my four years at Wofford. In addition to my Spanish major, I completed the Latin American Studies program and Gender Studies programs. My studies on campus and internationally, as well as the opportunities provided by the Bonner Scholarship, allowed me to learn from a multitude of people who often live socially and economically on the margins of society. I learned that my life’s passion and work is to reduce structural inequality and systemic oppression.
Now, I work as a population health specialist at the South Carolina Hospital Association. I primarily support two projects: the Alliance for a Healthier SC and AccessHealth South Carolina. The Alliance for a Healthier SC is a coalition of more than 50 executive leaders from diverse organizations across the state working together to ensure that all people in South Carolina have the opportunities to have healthier bodies, minds, and communities while reducing the future cost of care. Through the Alliance, I have been able to work with prominent leaders like Anton Gunn, former head of the Office of External Affairs at the US Department of Health and Human Services and Barry Cross, a senior executive at Michelin. AccessHealth SC, whose Spartanburg network I was exposed to while at Wofford, is a statewide effort to support communities in creating and sustaining coordinated data-driven provider networks of care that provide medical homes and ensure timely, affordable, and high-quality healthcare services for low-income uninsured people in South Carolina.
Working on the aforementioned projects at the Hospital Association has allowed me to contribute to “big picture” solutions to many of the ground level problems that I learned about while working in the Spartanburg community at Wofford. I have learned that population health is about more than just hospitals and clinics—it’s also about language, transportation, economics, education, and even someone’s zip code. It has also built on my Wofford education in terms of equity—health equity, in particular, is not about giving everyone the same amount of resources, but providing different types and levels of support to enable individuals and communities to achieve their potential for optimal health.
Without the support and opportunities at Wofford, I would not have been equipped to understand the extent of America’s health crisis. Wofford provided me with the tools to successfully implement programs that are changing South Carolina for the better.