Familias Unidas: Community bonds over shared culture at Spanish-Speaking Family Night


Photo credit: Karen Pavlisak

Members of Hermanas Unidas and faculty present to Spanish-speaking families. Families gathered in Archer’s library Nov. 29 where they learned more about daily life at Archer and bonded over their common language and culture.

By Surya Patil, Sports Editor

The college application process is a daunting one. At times, it can be confusing for both students and parents. Parents of applicants who experience a language barrier often face additional confusion and have less of an understanding of the process than parents whose primary language is English. Hermanas Unidas and Spanish-speaking and non-Spanish-speaking faculty members hosted the annual Spanish-Speaking Family Night Nov. 29 to reduce the prevalence of this common phenomenon, to build community and to display support for the Spanish-speaking families at Archer.

The event was hosted in the library from 7-8:30 p.m. Following a slideshow presentation, dinner from Fresh Lunches was served. This has been an annual event at Archer for many years. However, due to COVID-19, Archer hasn’t hosted one on campus since 2019.

The slideshow was presented in Spanish and shared important information about Archer, the college application process, student day-in-the-life videos, campus updates, student support and available extracurriculars. Spanish teacher Talia Geffen, Head of School Elizabeth English, Associate Head of School Karen Pavlisak and Dean of Student Life, Equity and Inclusion Samantha Hazel O’Brien opened the presentation.

“We showed slides of all of the faculty and staff who are Spanish-speaking on campus so people can get to know their faces and see what departments they’re in,” Geffen said. “The list has really grown over the past decades since I’ve been involved with the department. It is really exciting.” 

Fifty community members from 20 different families attended the event. Siblings, parents and grandparents were welcome and encouraged to attend. Some of the attendees only speak Spanish, while others speak Spanish and English. Hermanas Unidas leader Julissa Espinoza said she felt events like Spanish-Speaking Family Night help her family feel more connected to Archer and to other Latino families at Archer. 

“I feel that it is hard for the kids transitioning to a school like Archer. It is a very different school from where they come from. But, I feel like it’s even harder for the parents,” Espinoza said. “My mom wants to be involved, but she is a little timid and afraid to get involved because she knows that English isn’t her first language. It discourages her. Having events like this helped her branch out of her shell.” 

Hermanas Unidas member Lucia Williams, who presented on her experience at Archer and her role on The Oracle, reflected on one barrier to the college process for Spanish-speaking families.

“A big takeaway I had was that Latin families should be able to connect with and understand the college guidance councilors,” Williams  said. “None of the college guidance counselors speak Spanish. It poses the question: What are these families supposed to do when they have kids that are applying to college and aren’t able to fully understand the process? It would be really great to get someone in the college admissions department that is a very fluent Spanish-speaker.”

During the slideshow, the presenters introduced resources available for Spanish-speaking families during the college application process. For example, during college meetings between councilors, students and parents, Archer hired a translator, who serves as a tool for parents who do not speak English.

Williams said being a part of the presentation made her realize the disparities and inequitable access to information between families whose primary language is English and families whose primary language is Spanish. Much of the information covered in the presentation is considered common knowledge to Archer’s English speaking families but not to some of  the Spanish-speaking families at Archer.

Williams said she thinks it is necessary and helpful for Spanish-speaking families to have the opportunity to bond. She hopes that Hermanas Unidas will continue to be a space where Latin people can come together to discuss and appreciate their culture.

“It was really great to be there with all the other Latin families because I really felt like I could finally connect with people that had my culture at Archer,” Williams said. “I was able to share my experiences. It was a really lovely night. For me, sometimes, I feel like I’m not Latin enough. I feel like I can’t really represent my culture. So, it was really great for me to stand up there and represent the Latin [students] at Archer and be able to give these people the knowledge and experiences that I have with pride in Spanish as a non-native speaker.”