Opening Pathways to MC Via Multilingual Outreach

Dragon Dance

At the annual World of Montgomery Festival, nearly 7,000 people visited the Rockville Campus to celebrate the county’s multicultural population. Photos by Pete Vidal.

Community engagement at MC means informing, consulting, participating, working in partnership, and reaching out to people who may not have thought of themselves as college students. The Office of Community Engagement recently published a report on how it is meeting that mission.

“There is almost no area of Montgomery College untouched by the work of the community engagement teams,” says President DeRionne Pollard. “All of this activity is, of course, aimed at inclusion. I have been talking all year about the idea of ‘radical inclusion’ and how we must push beyond our comfort zones to connect with people who are speakers of languages other than English, first-generation college attendees, and even K through 12 students who are struggling academically.”

With limited English proficient residents comprising approximately 15 percent (more than 130,000 residents) of the county’s population*, the College has been reaching out through several methods. The Community Engagement Center promotes programs and activities across cable TV, social media, and e-newsletters in multiple languages. It also launched a Facebook page and Twitter account, as well as MC Latino, a Facebook page in Spanish. Its Amharic videos are the College’s top 20 most viewed.

The College continues to produce a Spanish language radio and TV show, entitled “Mi Escuela es Su Escuela,” on Radio America 1540 AM. Twenty-four radio shows and 12 TV shows last year conveyed key information about MC topics and events.

In 2015, the College contracted with a translation service to offer in-person interpretation services, as well as written translation services for many languages. The service is also available to College departments for translating documents, such as brochures and flyers, into multiple languages or for in-person interpreters at College events.

Community Engagement Center specialists speak multiple languages, providing access for people who speak English, Spanish, Amharic, and Arabic, as well as many more languages through an over-the-phone interpretation line.

World of Montgomery FestivalNew partnerships with Latino parents and students at Montgomery Village and Neelsville middle schools involved youth in activities that promote school engagement and connection. The four-day-a-week program included sessions in study skills leadership training, service learning, and character development skills. Each school had a cohort of more than 30 Latino students. At monthly parent program meetings, College staff presented on various topics, including access, admissions, financial aid, Workforce Development and Continuing Education programs, college support services, and youth programs. Events on campus—including tours and short presentations—gave families opportunities to become more familiar with campus facilities and try out college courses.

At the annual World of Montgomery Festival in October, nearly 7,000 people visited the Rockville Campus to celebrate the county’s multicultural population. The festival included exhibits on the four countries with the largest immigrant populations in Montgomery County: China, El Salvador, Ethiopia, and India.

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