A Voces Fundraiser
From Executive Director Josh Dunn
Good evening everyone, and thank you so much for attending our 5th Sabor Latino! We are very excited to have each of you here to both celebrate Voces’ work in the community and also to come together in solidarity to understand and overcome the many challenges that our Latino, Hispanic and immigrant communities still face. Thank you for being willing to go on that journey with us.
Tonight would not be possible without the generous support of our allies and sponsors. Many of you are with us tonight - some as first time supporters of Voces, others as very familiar faces. Please give a round of applause to our Gold Sponsors, Lakeview Ford, BC Vision, and the United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. Please also give a hand to all our silver sponsors: the Battle Creek Community Foundation, Heritage Chevrolet, Michigan Tile and Carpet, Chemical Bank, Kellogg Community College, Blue Ox Credit Union, and the campaign for Tracie Tomak for District Judge. And this year we had a record number of advocate level sponsors, including: Old National Bank, The Miller Foundation, Farley Estes Dowdle, McCroskey Law, Worgess Insurance, Jessup Group, Fisher Spiegel Kunkel and Gerber, Allegra Battle Creek, The Arc of Calhoun County, Summit Pointe, Pastrami Joe’s Deli, Torti Taco, American First Credit Union, SEMCO Energy, Torti TACO, HOLA Employee Group at Kellogg Company, Victor Sanchez, Diane Smith and Family, Amanda Lankerd and Family, and Mr. Isaac Rodriguez.
Because of our sponsors, and because of each of you who bought a ticket to tonight’s event, we have already exceeded our net fundraising total from last years event with over $8000 raised! I challenge you to help us get to our 2018 goal of $10000 by bidding on the awesome items in our Silent Auction, just outside here in the hallway. Presented by the Buscher for District Judge Campaign, we have so many amazing prizes, including professional design and marketing services valued over $1200; vacation packages valued over $1500, 8 local restaurants, food vendors, local entrepreneurs and community organizations, two home repair companies, and seven different arts and crafts:and I guarantee, you won’t get a better deal on anything like that outside of Sabor Latino especially while supporting a great cause. To join our silent auction, please head to the registration table, where you will be assigned a bid number. Descriptions of each item and the bidding process for each is listed on the table.
A few pointers on the rest of evening: The dinner buffet is located behind you, if you haven’t already found that out! And the bar serving alcohol and soda (or “pop” I should say, since I’ve been in Michigan 5 years now) is in that corner. We are entertained this evening by the great Orquesta Melao from Kalamazoo… please give them a hand! They will keep you dancing throughout the night, but when you need a breather, please go out and enjoy the Photobooth and visit with our Program Information Tables to really get an interactive picture of the work Voces does in the community, especially if you’re brand new to Voces - I bet you’ll be surprised by breadth of work we accomplish through Language Access, Education and Community Connections.
Our hope is that Sabor Latino is the most fun fundraiser you’ll attend all year - so I promise I won’t keep you all night. But before I go, I want to give you a sense of how the past year has been, what we have in store for the next year, and how each of you can play a part in the success of our Latino, Hispanic and Immigrant communities.
“Muchas Voces, Una Comunidad” , or in English “Many Voices, One Community.” That is the idea that most inspires our work at Voces, and over the past year our staff, clients and volunteers have worked hard to make that a reality: to recognize the variety of resources and support systems that exist, and harness them all toward building a community with a shared vision and purpose.
At a grassroots level, we found allies from all walks of life who stood, and still stand with us as we fight for Families to Remain Together, and to remove the threat of ICE and unjust immigration enforcement in our backyard - and as a result, in June we had record-breaking attendance and financial support at our annual Family Day. Throughout the year, the number of individual donations and volunteer hours for our programs has also skyrocketed, and, because it’s 2018 I have to mention the 20% increase in social media following and engagement across our platforms.
At a more corporate level, we built partnerships with businesses and institutions - including II Stanley, Stewart Industries, and Battle Creek schools (one of our table hosts this evening) - by creating true language access solutions that each could take inhouse to build and support diversity in their workplace. This means that for the first time in our community, agencies were not only seeking document translation, but were also investing in providing English language classes to their associates on company time, as well as honoring the unique skill set of bilingual workers by paying for them to learn the skills of professional language interpretation through attending our 40-hour Community Interpreter training course.
National and regional partners have joined our local supporters to also expand the reach of our educational programs for our youth and their parents. For the first time since its creation in 2015, our middle school afterschool program - Creative Leaders United, or CLU - received an investment from UnidosUS, one of the largest, national level advocacy groups for Latinos in this country, meaning that the participants get a chance to meet more frequently, to create a leadership council and to design a civic engagement project that will be presented at a conference in Houston in 2019. Our after school programs as a whole - CLU, plus our Elementary Literacy Program and High School Youth Council - were accepted to be a part of the Kalamazoo Youth Development Network as one of the few qualifying programs based in Calhoun county. Now, putting aside any rivalry between the two communities, our membership has opened the doors to expert advice and data analysis that allow us to show not only growth in reading levels and high school graduation rates, but how to individually prepare students through evidence based interventions for college, career and community at any level at which they come to us. We have also expanded our services into multiple school districts with sessions multiple times a week for all programs for the very first time.
For the numbers oriented among you, the result of these new partnerships, investments and innovations include:
Over 1100 Interpretation Appointments, 167 Document translation Projects, over 40000 minutes of telephone interpretation, with over 70 local and regional institutions
120 esl students, a third of human saw significant enough growth to improve their prospects for finding work or moving ahead in their current job
95 youth and parents enrolled in our various classes and programs
Over 520 direct service, client support hours, an additional 450 hours of family liaison services directly through the public schools, plus twelve immigration legal services provided for visa renewal, DACA, and naturalization,
So, what’s next? This time last year, I stood in front of you and warned that it was a frightening and dangerous time in our country for immigrants and their children, or really for anyone with a skin tone darker than white or a last name that ended in “ez” or a vowel. That is still the case, and I would urge you in these next few weeks to consider deeply your options on this year’s ballot and support candidates who will fight for justice for everyone.
But happily, the work toward “Muchas Voces, Una Comunidad”/ “Many Voices, One Community” does provide a path forward for changing our local narrative to begin to erase xenophobia and to understand the power of our diversifying population. At Voces, we have a vision in the year to come to Build a Bilingual Battle Creek. No, we won’t teach everyone a second language - instead, we will normalize the idea of bilingualism and make its values clear, and move away from yes/no, black/white dichotomies that seem inclusive at the front end but more often than not just check the boxes saying we paid attention to all the groups. Rather than only be happy about the family we helped apply in their language to a needed program, we will work toward making that program ready to successfully serve a bilingual family from start to finish.
Communities who embrace bilingualism experience better educational outcomes, and as a result better economic outcomes. Historically in Battle Creek, language access has been perceived as a task rather than a relationship - that even as we provide access in both Spanish and in English, the overall experience gets marked as complete before full understanding is formed. By embracing a series of initiatives that allows Voces to both showcase the advantages of bilingualism and provide models for how to increase the value of it as a skill, we can change the course of a community at times struggling to find relevance and a positive path forward.
In 2019 and beyond you will see us expand our bilingual staff and workforce ESL programs, incorporate bilingual education into our afterschool programs and expand our services of Spanish as a Foreign Language, and we will advocate for systems that give power to the emerging leaders who have inherited a mother tongue other than English, who grew up here in Battle Creek and who could take the reigns of change if only we believed in their power.
IV. How you are helping and the resulting stories
Your presence here tonight tells me that we are on the right path, and that we won’t have to go it alone. Again, thank you so much for being a part of Sabor Latino. Simply by purchasing a ticket to this event, you have already begun molding a Bilingual Battle Creek into a reality.
You’ve paid for an hour of professional interpretation, so Elena no longer has to lie to her doctor because she’s too embarrassed to tell the truth through her 10 year old son serving as her voice at her annual exam.
You’ve enrolled one adult into our ESL classes or Family Leadership Institute, so Alberto can finally receive a promotion at work, or so Angela can increase her fluency just enough to move from ESL student to ESL teacher, and so Irena can stand up at parent night at her daughter’s school and demand the presentation be interpreted as promised.
You’ve sponsored a child to participate in our Elementary Literacy or our CLU program, so sixth-grader Lizbeth, whose parents did not get to go to college, can visit Notre Dame and for the first time get excited about enrolling in a university, and a competitive one at that! Or so Isaiah can finally engage in reading by seeing characters who look like him and share his experience as a Latino born in Michigan.
You’ve allowed our community connections advocates to spend two more hours going deeper into client’s case, so that Marisol can find the help she needs to turn her 15 year old son away from quitting school and becoming a violent actor in our community, to now finding a learning environment that he loves so much that he’s pledged his future to college and to a career which protects the Latino community from violence.
Some of the names have been changed, but those are all true stories of the result your support has on Voces families and clients. As you return to work on Monday, or to whatever communities and networks you call home, I hope you’ll be able to share those stories with friends, neighbors, and colleagues and begin to open minds both to the challenges our community faces, and to the amazing work my staff and volunteers do everyday in service to that community. Help us change the narrative of bilingualism in our community by thinking about what systematic changes in your own schools and places of work for which you can advocate that would make a diverse linguistic and cultural perspective an asset rather than a barrier. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, invite your friends and followers to do the same, and share our updates, our struggles and our successes.
All of these things let you add yourself to the many voices that support our one community - a community that can be, and is ready to be, celebratory of all of us and the unique contribution we can each bring to create an inclusive society providing Latino / Hispanic / Immigrant families with the opportunities and resources that lead each of them to individual and community transformation. Thank you, and have a fantastic night. Gracias.