Rocío Calvo asks what a difference it will make if immersion in Spanish language and Latino cultures enables aspiring social workers to see Latino communities from within

_1113873mural-detail1It’s no secret that today’s social worker will likely work with the largest growing segment of America’s populations, Latinos, during the course of his or her career. It’s also no surprise that, on average, people with Latino backgrounds are disproportionately affected by low educational attainment, fewer financial resources, and higher risk of discrimination. As a consequence, their families and communities often struggle with poverty and access to jobs and basic services.

Rocío Calvo is committed to addressing these realities at BC Social Work, through the power of the Latino Leadership Initiative (LLI), an innovative program designed to better prepare students to work with the increasingly diverse community that is the United States, and to help build solutions to create a more just and equitable society.

The LLI curriculum is addressing the often-challenging realities Latinos in America face, by training social workers to become a part of the communities in which they serve, and, as Calvo says, “do the work from within.” This starts with language proficiency—the LLI is one of the first programs nationwide to offer MSW courses in Spanish—but it is also so much more than this. The LLI is about sharing the Latino experience, and the brave, creative, entrepreneurial spirit that encourages so many to leave their home countries to work in low paying jobs in the hopes of something better. And it is about teaching the cultural traits that serve as protective factors for the many who are forced to deal with the daily hardships of living in a new place.

“It doesn’t matter if you work in a school, in a hospital, or in a clinic, today’s social workers are going to work with Latinos,” says Calvo. “So let’s train the next generation of professionals to use the strengths that these communities bring with them, in order to serve them better.”

128.8 million

The U.S. Hispanic population is estimated to reach 128.8 million by 2060, a number that will represent 31% of the U.S. population by that date. (U.S. Census Bureau)