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The Blue & Gray Press | May 24, 2018

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Student Intern Assists Police As Spanish Language Translator

Student Intern Assists Police As Spanish Language Translator

By JONATHAN POLSON

At a time when jobs are few and far between, students are searching for unique and advantageous internships to increase their education, skills, and presence in the work force.

The inclination to find noteworthy internships is prevalent at the University of Mary Washington as well.

Junior Astrid Huertas, who is double majoring in political science and Spanish, is currently interning for the Fredericksburg police department as a Spanish translator. Spanish is Huertas’ first language.

To obtain the internship, Huertas worked with Ana Chichester, Spanish professor in the modern foreign languages department and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Chichester believes this type of internship is important for a Spanish major.

“The most critical thing is being able to practice Spanish in a real life situation,” she said.

She stated that internships such as Huertas’ offer a unique way for Spanish majors to utilize the language.

“[Students] are not aware they can use their Spanish without studying abroad,” Chichester said.

As an intern, Huertas said that her duties “can change from day to day.”

Some days Huertas works as a 911 dispatcher. She takes calls from community members who can only speak Spanish and translates so the police department can respond immediately.

On other days, Huertas goes on rides along with police officers. She rides around the Fredericksburg area with an officer, following their normal day-to-day routine. When they enounter an issue with a Spanish speaker, Huertas helps translate.

“Fredericksburg has a [large] Spanish population,” said Huertas. “Cops have lots of trouble with the language barrier, and they have to find a way to talk with them and find out what’s wrong.”

Huertas noted that many police departments use a language hotline that can set them up with a translator. However, the language hotline can usually take up to an hour. She said her position helps get answers automatically.

“[Huertas is] the fifth Spanish major that does the internship with the police department,” said Chichester.

The first internship came about two years ago when Captain Rick Pennock, patrol division commander of the Fredericksburg police, came to Chichester explaining that the police department’s full time translator was leaving. Chichester presented the opportunity to her students, and that fall one student volunteered and another interned.

The following semester saw two students taking the intern position.

Chichester stated that the Latino community in Fredericksburg has grown in the past years, and this internship “allows [students] to get to know and understand the problems these new immigrants have.”

Huertas described her job as an interesting opportunity. “I like it because I get to see a lot that goes on in the city that I otherwise wouldn’t know about,” she said.