Oral History project tracks Hispanic immigration to Harnett County region

Buies Creek–Hispanic immigrant, “Nestor,” came to the United States from Columbia to study at an American university. Although a practicing attorney in his native country, he was unable to enroll in a U.S. university for over two years because he didn’t have the necessary paperwork.His is just one of the stories Dr. Tatiana Seeligman’s Conversational Spanish and Dr. Jaclyn Stanke’s 20th Century history classes uncovered during an oral history project conducted on Hispanic immigrants to the region in the fall of 2007. The project is part of a “Servant Leadership” program, emphasizing the importance of community service to the learning process, being taught across the curriculum at Campbell.”I don’t speak Spanish, but Tatiana does,” said Dr. Stanke. “We combined our skills to create and implement this oral history project because of the importance of Latin immigration to this county.”The project required students to obtain the oral histories of 30 Hispanic students enrolled in the Campbell Divinity School’s Hispanic Theological Education program and to work with the students’ children in an on-site daycare facility.”The students didn’t just conduct their interviews randomly,” said Stanke, “but focused on a particular aspect of each individual’s history. In ‘Nestor’s’ case, it was education.”Nestor was a lawyer in Columbia, but here he works at a Chick Fil A. Junior Erica McAllister, who interviewed “Nestor,” said he is the victim of a common stereotype. “Although he’s a really well-educated and intelligent man, people here think that he’s uneducated because he is Hispanic,” McAllister said.At the completion of the project, the students presented their findings in the form of a 3,000-word research paper, some written entirely in Spanish.”A major project objective is to get students to apply their skills toward a larger goal than just being able to pass a test,” said Seeligman. “Students trying to learn Spanish grammar and vocabulary, for example, can apply their knowledge in a real-life situation which also involves community service.”Dr. John Bartlett, co-teacher and assistant professor of biology at Campbell, said an important aspect of the “Servant Leadership” program is the Christ-centered component.”It is the fact that you’re helping the ‘least among us’ that gives students the sense of the Christian mission,” he said. “This is how we really learn as human beings. Students acquire more confidence, help others and connect to the community. Therefore, the community becomes smaller.”As a result of the oral history project, students were invited to participate in a history conference at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Classes will also continue to collect oral histories as part of Campbell’s Servant Leadership program next fall. Other projects involving community service are being investigated for the future.Photo Copy: Campbell student Erica Rojas, a participant in the Hispanic Oral History project, cares for one of the youngest children at the on-site daycare facility.

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