Interns Assist Louisville Hispanic Community


By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D.

Internships are important experiences for students for a variety of reasons.  But often, internships simultaneously provide important services to our community. A group of UofL foreign language students recently completed internships that provided great benefits to the Hispanic population in Louisville.

Spanish professor Clare Sullivan directed the internships during the fall and her students successfully and safely completed their experiences, even in the midst ofthe pandemic.  Two of Professor Sullivan’s students interned with the Backside Learning Center (BLC) at Churchill Downs, a non-profit that assists workers at the racetrack who are primarily native Spanish speakers.

Maegan Helm is a Louisville senior majoring in Spanish and Global Communication.  Her work at BLC involved helping the young children of track workers navigate online learning, communicating with teachers and parents, and encouraging PPE and safety.  Helm is most appreciative of the opportunity to work with a group of “…caring and compassionate people. My internship has allowed me to see the ins and outs of a successful non-profit making change in their community. This is something I plan to take with me, and share with other people and communities, no matter where I travel.”

Maegan Helm

Hannah White, a senior History major from Eddyville, Kentucky who is minoring in Spanish also worked with elementary school students at the BLC, many whom were beginning to learn English.  White hopes to teach English abroad and eventually become a history professor, so she greatly benefited from her internship because it was her first teaching experience. “The best thing about my internship experience with Backside was definitely the students. I looked forward to their whirlwind of energy. They taught me patience and flexibility and were just a never-ending source of excitement and fun!”


Hannah White

Professor Sullivan also directed an internship for Nashville senior Mia Isabel Rodriguez who worked with Gentle Excellence Dental. The clinic has a mission to provide treatment regardless of language or financial barriers.  Rodriguez is a pre-dental student so her internship fit nicely with her long-term career ambitions in that she assisted the dentists. But the Spanish minor also found herself serving as an interpreter between employees and the patients who rely upon, what she calls a “remarkable facility” that serves a largely Spanish-speaking clientele. “Immersing myself in a Spanish-speaking environment has exponentially increased my communication skills, but the best part has been meeting people from countries all over the world and learning their stories.” 


Mia Isabel Rodriguez

That applied knowledge aspect of internships is clearly important for professors like Clare Sullivan. Equally important, she was proud of her students for their efforts to benefit others. “In spite of all the restrictions, my internship students greatly impressed me this semester. They managed to help our community while they improved their own understanding of language and culture.”

Real world experience and applied learning are certainly important and tangible reasons for students to do internships.  However, the importance of internships becomes even more magnified when the community can also benefit from the work of students like Maegan Helm, Hannah White and Mia Isabel Rodriguez.