What started as a few pointed workshops to give visiting students from the Universidad de Concepción, Chile, a chance to give a presentation has grown into an annual event that is providing a bridge between Latino families and Central Minnesota services.
St. Cloud State University Continuing Studies organizes the annual Latino Health Fair each January. The annual event is a joint effort with CentraCare and other local organizations.
The fifth annual fair was held Feb. 1 at CentraCare Health in Melrose.
The event featured medical consultations, basic dental services and health, vision and hearing screenings as well as information about financial wellness, immigration and access to higher education. Latino service organizations from the Twin Cities region and the tri-county area were present to reach out to Latino families from rural Minnesota they couldn’t otherwise connect with, said Elizabeth Valencia-Borgert, of St. Cloud State continuing studies.
St. Cloud State’s Small Business Development Center gave advice to those interested in starting their own business. Admission officers from St. Cloud State and St. Cloud Technical and Community College gave information about accessing higher education.
“We have created the space for organizations and the Latino community to meet,” Valencia-Borgert said. “… The idea is a one-stop shop. Once the family arrives, they are presented with a series of services.”
More than 400 residents from throughout Central Minnesota attended. Buses came to the health fair from the Melrose area, St. Cloud area, Long Prairie, Pelican Rapids and other towns, she said.
Barbara Veliz and Carla Valenzuela, nursing students visiting from Concepción, delivered presentations in Spanish on obesity and parenting together with two St. Cloud State nursing students.
Other St. Cloud State nursing students helped to provide screenings and health information, while communication and sciences disorders students offered hearing screenings.
Veliz and Valenzuela assisted the nursing students and served as a model of how to approach the Latino community linguistically and culturally, Valencia-Borgert said.
“It’s all about students learning from each other,” she said.
The event gave the Concepción students a chance to use both their knowledge of nursing and the Latino community while helping others, Veliz said.
“We can help them with what we do in our college — bring what we know about our country,” she said. “We are trying to (bring) our knowledge in this and mix it with the knowledge students have here.”
St. Cloud State languages and cultures students and international students helped by serving as navigators and interpreters to assist the families as they moved from service to service. Others helped behind the scenes with set up and clean up.
In all, almost 50 St. Cloud State students volunteered their time to assist the Latino families.
“It’s about helping them learn to navigate the system and how to access services that they probably do not know exist and perhaps do not know they could qualify for,” she said.