Evelyn Moreland has many different titles; dancer, teacher, mom, and soon she’ll add certified Spanish interpreter to the list.
“I originally wanted to get my Spanish Interpreter Certificate just as a way to grow professionally,” Moreland says. “But through this program I have found where I truly belong.”
Before coming to the United States, Evelyn had a successful career as a professional dancer in Mexico. But after finishing a U.S. dance tour, Moreland decided to stay in New Mexico and has taught Spanish ever since at the National Hispanic Cultural Center and Annunciation Catholic School.
When Moreland’s daughter started preschool a couple of years ago, she decided to use her spare time to continue her education as well. She enrolled in Central New Mexico Community College’s (CNM’s) Spanish Interpreter Program, which trains bilingual students to become interpreters in legal, healthcare, or community settings.
Despite being a native Spanish speaker, Moreland was surprised at how challenging her classes were at first.
“When I registered I thought ‘I already speak Spanish and English, so I’ll be just fine’,’’ Moreland says. “Then when I started classes, I realized it was much harder. There are so many rules and when you’re interpreting in a medical setting, saying one word incorrectly can harm a patient. It’s a big responsibility, but helping others makes it worth it.”
It didn’t take long for Moreland to hit her stride, and she only has two classes left to finish her certification. Along with her coursework, Moreland also completed shadow sessions with a trained interpreter at University of New Mexico Hospital, which only solidified her desire to become an interpreter.
“I will never forget the look on the doctors’ faces when we walked into the patient room,” Moreland explains. “They were so grateful to see us, and I realized then that my status as an immigrant, my ability to speak and interpret Spanish, and even my accent were needed and valued. As an interpreter, I am going to help save people’s lives because I can break down barriers with my language and my voice, and that feeling is truly indescribable.”
Once she completes her certificate Moreland hopes to start her career as a medical interpreter as quickly as possible. She also wants to encourage other native Spanish speakers to become interpreters as a way to give back to the community and to find a sense of belonging.
“This country needs interpreters,” Moreland says. “And by becoming an interpreter you realize the value you bring to the table and the connections you are able to make between people, and as an immigrant that is a very healing experience.”
This article originally appeared here.