City rec workers try to interact in Spanish

City rec workers try to interact in Spanish

May 25th, 2011 by Rebecca Miller in Community Downtown

City of Chattanooga Parks and Recreation employees are learning Spanish so they can interact more efficiently with the Hispanic community in recreation centers around Chattanooga.

"I think in the Highland Park area we have seen a large increase in the Hispanic population," said Peggy Grall, aquatics coordinator for the Brainerd, South Chattanooga, Warner Park and Carver recreation centers. "That's why it was important to me to work on communication and communicating with them. When we do our staff training we are going to review some of the conversational things with the staff."

Laurie Stevens, left, meets with city of Chattanooga Parks and Recreation employee Joyce Teal to celebrate the end of a successful Spanish course.

The eight-week crash course was offered by Laurie Stevens, an employee of La Paz Chattanooga, a nonprofit organization that works to empower the Latino community through advocacy, inclusion and education. She said there are currently between 15,000 and 20,000 members of the Latino community in Chattanooga alone and that the recreation center employees interact with many of them on a daily basis

"La Paz unfortunately doesn't offer this program through their organization, but I wanted to do this independently and offered my services," she said.

Stevens met with more than 20 Parks and Recreation employees who volunteered to attend the course. The participants were split into two groups and met on Tuesdays or Fridays of each week to learn conversational Spanish tailored specifically to their jobs. Stevens said she taught the basics of counting, colors and other stepping stone words learned in any language, but focused on conversation and exposure to the language rather than grammar.

Grall learned how to ask families if they can swim, if they like swimming, if they have the appropriate swimming attire such as swim diapers for children who are not old enough to use the rest room, and how to relay the cost and hours for the pool facility. She said she looks forward to using her new knowledge when Warner Park's pool opens May 28 and Carver's pool opens May 30.

Joyce Teal from East Lake Recreation Center also attended the Spanish classes and is already making use of her new vocabulary.

"I was able to tell a parent what time his daughter would be done with a program, in Spanish," Teal said. "He was just so excited that someone was reaching out. Personally, I'd like to see both Spanish and English as a second language classes at the centers. It's about meeting in the middle."

Email Rebecca W. Miller at rmiller@tfpcommunitynews.com.