Ramsey civic engagement
Community outreach has long been a vanguard of the University of Georgia’s Ramsey Scholars, but it’s likely that no project in the 10-year history of the program has touched as many Athens-Clarke County residents as an initiative established in 2008 that continues to this day.
Bilingual Directory of county Services
A pair of those helpful hands belonged to Whitney Ising (’12), who after Katz graduated (with degrees in Spanish, mathematics, and religion) assumed the responsibility to ensure that a second edition of the directory would be assembled and distributed in the summer of 2010.
“During her senior year, Betsy was working with Casa de Amistad, which serves the Spanish-speaking community in Athens, on a somewhat undefined project, and Betsy took it and made a user-friendly bilingual directory to be distributed,” says Ising, who’s majoring in economics and international affairs with a minor in Spanish.
When Katz graduated, she wanted to make sure her project – a 32-page booklet filled with information on healthcare, shelters, attorneys, financial assistance, and employment that came out in spring 2009 – would continue to grow, so Ising stepped in.
Since so much of the hard lifting came during the launch of the inaugural directory, Ising says most of her work – and the work of the five Ramsey Scholars who joined her in putting together the second edition – concerned attesting that the information in the first directory was correct and up to date.
Ising says she had no trouble rounding up workers among her Ramsey classmates. “A lot of Ramsey Scholars know the importance of getting involved in the community and they look for different outlets to place their focus,” she says. “It was easy to reach out and get people involved. You immediately get responses from people from many different study backgrounds, and people who don’t even know Spanish – their interest is more in the service aspect of the project.”
The directory has been extremely helpful for clients of Casa de Amistad (which in 2005 developed a directory Katz used as a template for the 2009 edition). It went over just as well with parents who have children in the Athens-Clarke County School District, where Angela Gay, a school social worker, estimated that between 30-40 percent of the student population is Hispanic.
“The directories have been very helpful for our families that are bilingual,” says Gay. “We’ve distributed those to quite a few parents in the school district, and it’s been a wonderful resource. They’ve gone home to elementary, middle, and high school parents. Just within our social work department, we’ve probably distributed 100-200 copies.” According to Gay, the directories provide a necessary connection to an underserved portion of the population.
“It really helps families when we’re referring parents for different services within the community,” she says. “With the directories that we’ve worked with before, nothing is presented in a Spanish format. So to have it in a language they understand is helpful. It’s very detailed and families really do appreciate that. It’s something families can keep at home and refer to as needed.”
“It’s really rewarding to have contact with the people who use the directory. When we’ve delivered it, everyone that I’ve come across is so thankful that something like this even exists because they don’t have the time to put it together,” says Ising. In addition to the local school system, most directories are distributed through Casa de Amistad and area health centers. “We’ve received a lot of positive feedback, which keeps us working hard on it.”
And as an added – though not surprising – bonus for Ising, being part of the directory endeavor has great academic merit.
“It has a lot of educational value,” she says. “I’ve been able to develop relationships with different organizations and it also takes a lot of translating, so my Spanish has come into practice there. It’s definitely a positive experience. This is a project that represents the Ramseys, so we take a lot of pride in it.”