Making Sure Nothing Gets “Lost in Translation”

Tamara Villagran, bilingual conselor, with student, Westbridge Academy, Bloomfield, NJ

Tamara Villagran, one of
several bilingual counselors at Westbridge Academy

Having bilingual counselors allows us to help our Spanish-speaking students even before they walk in the door – it allows us to connect to families. Immediately, it is clear to them that we understand, not only their child’s needs, but also their language, their values, and their culture.
– Tamara Villagran, School Counselor

Roughly 35% of the students who attend Westbridge Academy are Latino. Although many are bilingual, educators and therapists are making every effort to be sure nothing is “lost in translation,” especially when communicating with families around sensitive and complex issues.  That starts with a bilingual staff.

For Eva Payano-Veras, School Social Worker at Westbridge Academy, the work she does with Spanish-speaking students and their families is deeply personal.

“I am a first generation American whose parents’ first language was Spanish. I had to translate for my family, so I know what it feels like to not be fully understood,” she said.

Tamara Villagran, a counselor at the school, believes that having a bilingual staff lays the groundwork needed to get the therapeutic process started on day one.

The School’s cultural understanding starts at the top. Director, Dr. Viviana Litovsky, is bilingual. “We honor diversity.  All of our families have a second home here,” she said.

Ms. Villagran believes that there is a huge need to support children and families in the local community. “We are always looking for new ways to reach families to help them understand the culturally sensitive supports we can provide,” she said.