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Park City Library Program For Spanish Speakers Gives Opportunities For Higher Education

A program hosted by the Park City Library and Mexican Consulate of Salt Lake City provides an opportunity for immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries to access literacy, primary and secondary education and GED testing. 

Park City Library Spanish Services Coordinator Bianca Carrasco runs the Plaza Comunitaria program that began this summer, which is free for students. She says she has five students currently, and all of them are pursuing GEDs, or high school equivalency certificates. Students take five subject exams in Spanish—if they pass all five, they can apply for the GED certificate. If they struggle in a particular subject, Carrasco implements a learning plan for them. Carrasco says the program provides locals with opportunities they may not have had otherwise.

“I’m loving that I get to help people,” Carrasco said. “I’m loving that I get to open doors for people that decided to just start a new life.”

The GED is often used for people who didn’t complete high school and earn a diploma, but Carrasco says most of her students have advanced degrees. In many cases, university degrees from foreign countries don’t translate to United States programs, so professionals have to start from scratch before they can enroll in university studies in the states. One of Carrasco’s students, Rosa Maria, recently moved to Park City from Peru and has an extensive resume.

"My first career was being a nurse, but then I got a bachelors in alternative education and [worked] as a Montessori teacher; then I started working as a university education teacher," Rosa Maria said. "I also have a degree in psychopedagogy, and for the last 20 years, I've been working on sustainable energy through the World Scout Organization."

Rosa Maria passed all her exams and got her GED certification. She says she was interested in attending the Plaza Comunitaria program because, as a teacher, she’s a lifelong learner.

“In my native country, Peru, it's hard to study—it's very expensive, and it's hard to make the time while earning a living to study higher education," Rosa Maria said. "Right now, I'm prioritizing my children's education, but now that I've learned about this program, it gives me an opportunity to focus on my education for once.”

Rosa Maria has lived in Park City for a month—she came to join her daughter who lives here. During her studies through Plaza Comunitaria, Rosa Maria has been reflecting on her time here and the people she’s met. She says many of them have only focused on work and making ends meet since moving here; made her realize it’s a vicious cycle

“I was speaking with somebody, and they told me that it's like they’re a hamster on a hamster wheel, just doing the same thing over and over, and I was just thinking, when does it end?" Rosa Maria said. "You're only given one life, and you should make the most of it, and if you want to improve, there's avenues on self improvement as well.”

The Plaza Comunitaria program will continue at least another year, and Carrasco can continue to renew permission for the program. Those who want to participate can attend a session every Tuesday and Thursday at 4 p.m. at the library.

Emily Means hadn’t intended to be a journalist, but after two years of studying chemistry at the University of Utah, she found her fit in the school’s communication program. Diving headfirst into student media opportunities, Means worked as a host, producer and programming director for K-UTE Radio as well as a news writer and copy editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle.
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