As a proud Hispanic institution and in honor of Latinx Heritage Month, John Jay College recognizes the vital contributions Latinxes have made to our country and our society through a series of events, web articles and special features on our YouTube page. . In our “Celebrating Latinx” series of articles, we connect with our Latinx students, faculty, staff and alumni, and learn more about their experiences, identities, traditions and hopes for the future.
When former student María Vanessa Maldonado ’17, a New York State certified court interpreter from Argentina, walks into court to help interpret hearings for Spanish speakers, she feels a great sense of pride not only for the work she does, but for the community she helps. “I love to talk and learn from my people, which is anyone who speaks Spanish and has trouble understanding English,” says Maldonado, who arrived in the United States at the age of. 16 years old. “Knowing that you have someone in the room who understands you and speaks your language helps you feel better and more comfortable with the situation. I am proud to do this work which helps others.
Creating a comfortable environment for those she works with is an important goal for Maldonado, who has found a similar welcoming space at John Jay’s. Thinking back to her favorite times in college, Maldonado recalls a day in a Spanish class, taught by Prof. María Julia Rossi, Ph.D., where for the first time since arriving in the United States, she felt seen and validated. “During our first class, Professor Rossi asked me my name and I answered ‘María’, but I explained that in Argentina and at home I was called ‘Vanessa’. She then asked me: “What do you like to be called? It was a simple little moment and may seem insignificant to others, but to me it meant so much and perfectly captures my experience with John Jay, ”says Maldonado, who often felt like he lived two separate lives because of the differences. name. “As a Latinx person, you can often feel like you don’t belong in a space or that no one will understand you. But in Professor Rossi’s class, I felt seen, respected and accepted. At that point, I knew I could merge both María and Vanessa and become whole again. It was at John Jay College where I really found myself, my pride in being Latinx and my goal. “
“This is at John Jay College where I really ended up, my pride in being Latinx and my goal.” –Maria Vanessa Maldonado
Come to John Jay
Maldonado’s journey at John Jay began in 2013, 10 years after graduating from high school and just over a decade after moving to the United States from Mendoza, Argentina. While she was nervous about starting college in her mid-twenties, she was encouraged by the help she received from John Jay. “The College gave me all the support I needed to really ease my transition. They offered translations during the orientation of the students in my native Spanish language and they taught me how to choose my online courses and how to navigate the school website, ”she recalls. “When I was in high school, the technology wasn’t very advanced, so I had a lot to learn on the Internet. But with all the support I received from John Jay, I felt ready to begin my college journey.
Once she settled into her classes, Maldonado fully immersed herself in the bilingual classes and internship opportunities offered by the College. “In my Spanish and Modern Languages classes, I was able to expand my Spanish vocabulary and learn more about the Spanish language, the value of diversity and the different Latinx cultures,” she says, acknowledging that she has grew up in an area of Argentina where diversity was lacking. Desiring an opportunity to learn through hands-on experience, Maldonado couldn’t pass up the opportunity to intern in the city’s justice system, through United Court Internship, to get a first-hand view of this. that professional court interpreters and translators do on a daily basis. “During my internship with family, civil and criminal courts in New York City, I saw how difficult it was for the Latinxes to understand what was going on during the proceedings,” says Maldonado. “The internship showed me how important interpreters are to the justice system and to people in court hearings.”
“In the court system, translators and interpreters provide a communication bridge for Latinx people who do not understand English. They guarantee equal access to Latinx people. –Maria Vanessa Maldonado
Find your goal
Watching court interpreters help Latinxes better understand what was going on during their hearings and court proceedings gave Maldonado a clearer vision of what she wanted for her own future. “Being able to communicate and understand is essential to everything we do in life. If you’re a Latinx in the United States who doesn’t speak English, that puts you at a disadvantage, ”says Maldonado. “In the court system, translators and interpreters provide a communication bridge for Latinx people who do not understand English. They guarantee equal access to Latinx people.
Realizing that she wanted a career as an interpreter, Maldonado took the opportunity to practice her bilingual and translation skills. One of those defining moments happened during her senior year at John Jay, when she and a few classmates were asked to provide translations for parents attending an orientation for new students. “In many ways, it felt like a complete moment to me because my journey at John Jay started with orientation with someone translating information for me into Spanish and it ended with translating for others. Being able to help these parents who did not speak English be part of their children’s transition to college was wonderful and filled me with happiness, ”recalls Maldonado fondly. “The parents took the time to thank me after the orientation. It was then that I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life.
“Being able to help these non-English speaking parents be part of their children’s transition to college was amazing. –Maria Vanessa Maldonado
Translate for others
After earning a bachelor’s degree in law and society and a certificate in legal translation and interpretation, Maldonado became a New York State licensed court interpreter, where she translates in real time between English and Spanish in all courts. And, she makes sure that those who seek her help are heard and have a full understanding of the process. “In my work, I have to interpret for many people, from different Spanish-speaking countries, and where the Spanish vocabulary used is different. I am very grateful for the Spanish and Modern Languages courses I took at John Jay’s as they have helped me broaden my language skills so that I can better understand and interpret for people from all Latinx countries. Says Maldonado. “The understanding I gained in the classroom created a solid foundation for me and has been an integral part of my career as a performer. “
“I’m grateful to be an interpreter who helps people and I thank John Jay for bringing me here.” –Maria Vanessa Maldonado
She also sees how her ability to speak different forms of Spanish helps put the people she works with at ease. “When I’m performing, I can stand in front of someone from another Latinx country and use their native Spanish to communicate with them. You immediately see them start to feel comfortable. They know that they will understand the process better, that they can speak to me in their native Spanish and that I will understand them, ”says Maldonado. “It’s validating. Me who speaks their language lets them know that they are seen, heard and respected. This validation and empowerment is what Professor Rossi gave me in this first Spanish class, and it is what I hope to give to everyone I work with. I am grateful to be an interpreter who helps people and I thank John Jay for bringing me here.