Breaking barriers on the Spanish/English language


By Giselle Alpizar-Calixto | PREVIEW Columnist

My name is Giselle Alpizar-Calixto and I am a first-generation Mexican American student striving for a higher education at Colorado State University (CSU). I am the oldest of three and although my parents are from Mexico, I grew up in Commerce City, Colo. 

I appreciate the need for Spanish-language recognition for basic services. I want to support the Spanish-speaking community that helped me get to where I am today. Growing up, I watched my parents struggle to adapt to living in a foreign country that spoke a language they did not understand, living in fear and uncertainty. My experiences in my community have strengthened me by showing me that it’s important to advocate for ourselves because we deserve equity and not just equality. 

I feel extremely blessed to be bilingual and I want to learn more about what is needed to improve the services offered to Spanish speakers in these areas. I value the experiences of others and feel extremely grateful for this opportunity and the ability to keep learning. 

In my free time, I enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone and exceeding my academic and personal expectations. I love to travel because I get to embed myself in the language and culture. I am a proud sister of Sigma Omega Nu Latina Interest Sorority Inc. I am in Fort Collins because it reminds me of home. I have built connections, relationships and a network that is helping me succeed. I have a double major studying health and Spanish because I want to give back to communities in need of assistance and break down language barriers. In the future, I hope to become a certified interpreter and have my own practice as an athletic therapist/trainer.

All over the United States, people struggle with language and culture barriers. Colorado has a large population of Spanish speakers who need basic services such as health care, legal services and social work. 

As an intern, I will work with many stakeholders and professionals in these fields. I will work with Spanish-speaking community members in a variety of jobs that include agriculture, restaurant/hotel work, real estate, education and health care, as well as faculty and students in various professional fields about experiences they have with Spanish speakers and the language skill needs in their professions. 

These interviews will then be transcribed and the needs of specific professions will be categorized. The objectives of this research are to better understand how and when professionals in these careers need and use Spanish in professional interactions, and how to create the educational materials to advance these skills. The results will be used to make recommendations to improve the services offered to Spanish speakers in these areas. I hope to dive deeper and understand their needs, improve my translation skills, and assist with analysis and improvement of Spanish in professional work environments.

Last summer, I worked in Sterling, located in Logan County. I was fortunate enough to work on this exact internship opportunity and I fell in love with the work and data we collected. There is so much to learn and understand apart from statistical information, which is key to most behaviors or response from Spanish-speaking community members. I hope to dive deeper to understand their needs, improve my translation skills and assist with analysis and improvement of Spanish in professional work environments. I appreciate the knowledge I have gained from this internship because the impact of this work is transformational, providing me with skills that will transfer into my chosen fields of work.

My research dovetails perfectly with the CSU Extension internship program as it aims to examine the ways in which these services are or are not successfully provided to Spanish speakers. What we see as unique is that while many needs analyses select faculty, professionals and students in the field to gather the data necessary for course creation, we have identified what we consider to be the key stakeholders.

They are the underrepresented Spanish-speaking populations of Colorado. Working together with identified county Extension agents in various counties throughout Colorado, we can provide students a unique opportunity to conduct interviews in English and Spanish with stakeholders who our mentors in the field have helped us identify, and that will help us bridge these gaps. Students are given unique opportunities to be the necessary connection between mentors on campus and mentors in the field. The result is key information that provides us with the data necessary to identify the various tasks and language functions necessary to successful course creation. Like my mentor Andrea mentioned, “The relationships forged from these experiences go beyond students and mentors in my view and connect mentors on campus with mentors in the field.” 

Robin Young is very connected in Archuleta County and I’m glad I have the opportunity to work with her. 

Upcoming events

 Save the date for the viticulture workshop to be hosted at Fox Fire Farms on July 15. 

The Archuleta County Fair is the first full weekend in August, Aug. 3 to Aug. 6. Go to for more info. Volunteers are wanted.

For more on these and other events, please check out our Facebook page at Archuleta County Extension or call the office at (970) 264-5931.

CPR and first aid classes

CPR and first aid certification classes are offered every other month by the CSU Extension office, generally on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m. The cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. Call the Extension office at (970) 264-5931 to register.