Civic Engagement

Recent grads make a difference in nearby Buford Highway community

In response to the increasing need for resources, education, and medical assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, recent Oglethorpe graduates Jessica Bamaca ’21 and Judith Silva Vivanco ’21 have put their skills to work, volunteering to help the Latinx Brookhaven community.

Judith Silva Vivanco '21

Judith Silva Vivanco ’21

As an intern with the Latin American Association (LAA), Vivanco began working with the organization by helping families gain access to the COVID-19 vaccine and other important health resources.

“I was always interested in working with the Latino community because growing up Mexican with parents who are immigrants, I saw them struggle with communicating or understanding other people,” Vivanco shared.

“Luckily, they had me and my siblings to translate for them, but a lot of people don’t have that; they don’t have family here, or they don’t even know there are resources to help them. I hope that if I wasn’t here to help my parents, then someone else would, so I wanted to be that resource for other people in the community.”

Her rewarding work with the LAA has led the sociology major to accept a full-time position as a Homelessness Prevention Case Manager. In the position, she now works to obtain funding for clients who are facing eviction, behind on housing payments, or will not be able to make future payments because of a recent job loss.

The department also connects clients to other resources offered by the LAA such as enrollment in public benefits, English courses, lawyers, youth programs, food pantries, and more.

“When I first applied for the internship, I didn’t know about everything the association really did. Now that I’m involved, I have gotten to see all of the many things that we do for the community.”

When asked what helped prepare her for this opportunity, the alumna reflected on her courses with former OU sociology professor and current health scientist at CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Dr. Elizabeth Rohan. “I’m so thankful for her advice,” Vivanco said. “She would always tell us her life and professional stories, from failures to successes.”

Jessica Bamaca '21

Jessica Bamaca ’21

Jessica Bamaca, who majored in Spanish, began working with Virtual Tutor Stops last academic year. There, she mentors and tutors elementary school students in virtual one-on-one sessions in subjects like math, reading, and English.

“I’ve always wanted to help out my community in any possible way, especially since it’s a community that has been negatively impacted economically, physically, and emotionally by the Covid-19,” Bamaca shared.

“Almost all of the families I’ve worked with during this time period are immigrant families who have come to America for a brighter future, and that brighter future just so happens to include a better education system for their children.”

Bamaca is part of Los Vecinos de Buford Highway, an association that fosters and cultivates the development of Buford Highway by amplifying the voices of families and immigrants, creating future leaders, and preserving distinctive features of the area. The organization helped advertise the virtual tutoring sessions, encourage families to participate, and recruit tutors.

The alumna recognizes Professor of Sociology Dr. Janelle Pham, Professor of Spanish Dr. Mario Chandler, and OU’s Career Development for supporting her at Oglethorpe and preparing her for this opportunity.

“With all the volunteer opportunities there are on campus and off, OU helped launch me into volunteering.”

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