How to register for the tour:
Go to utc.edu/visit and scroll down the page until seeing Spanish Speaking Tour … click “Register Now”
- At the pop-up box, click “Register”
- Fill out the registration form … click “Complete” to finish
Starting college and navigating the bureaucracy of getting an education can be challenging. Not to mention a year of dealing with admissions applications, financial aid and housing, and that is before a student even sets foot on campus.
Resources like student-led tours and campus orientation sessions help incoming freshmen get their footing.
Unfortunately, not all students get the same benefit from these resources.
“When a Hispanic student comes for a campus tour, they’re going to bring their family. And especially with first-generation students, their parents may not be able to understand the majority of what’s said in an English tour,” said Dr. Niky Tejero, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Tejero and Brandalyn Shropshire, associate director of engagement in the UTC Office of Undergraduate Admissions, are partnering to break down the language barrier. The two have collaborated to create the first Spanish-language campus tours.
The first tour will take place at 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 25, and it’s more than just a walk around the grounds.
“Participants will get a full tour of campus and students will get to fill out the application for free,” said Shropshire.
After the initial tour, Shropshire said her office is looking to offer Spanish-speaking tours “at least every two weeks.”
“Of course, we’ll do tours more often as demand increases or if there’s a special request from a school or group,” she said.
Tejero said there is a growing need for Spanish resources with the increase of Spanish-speaking people in Chattanooga and the surrounding area.
“If you look at the U.S. Census reports, the population growth of the Hispanic and Latinx community in Hamilton County has outpaced the national average,” Tejero said. “Between 2010 and 2020, there has been an 81% increase in Hamilton County while the national average has increased by 23%.”
To reach out to this growing population, UTC has partnered with La Paz Chattanooga, a local organization serving the Spanish-speaking community of Chattanooga.
“We are a nonprofit that advocates for the Latino community in Chattanooga,” said Wendy Reynoso, an associate case manager at La Paz and a 2022 graduate of UTC. She explained that La Paz is a liaison for other charitable organizations in Chattanooga.
“A lot of [nonprofit organizations] don’t have Spanish-speaking staff, so we act as a bridge to get services to our Latino community,” said Reynoso.
La Paz will use its voice to help promote the event.
“Our role is to bring awareness to the event and have as many students and families sign up for the event as possible,” Reynoso said. “I love that it’s a family event because, as a culture, we are super family-oriented.”
Reynoso is intimately familiar with the challenges the children of Spanish-speaking parents face.
“I’m from Guatemala, but I moved to Chattanooga when I was a 1-year-old,” she said. After graduating from Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, she attended UTC. “I was a Brock scholar and I graduated in May 2022 with a degree in mechanical engineering.”
At her new student orientation in 2018, Reynoso said it would have been helpful for someone to have spoken Spanish to keep her parents up to speed.
She remembered conversing with a fellow alum about the difficulties of navigating higher education with immigrant parents.
“We talked about how our parents’ involvement wasn’t always the best, but it wasn’t because our parents didn’t want to be involved; they just didn’t know how,” she said.
On the Aug. 25 tour day, buses will pick up students and their families at 4 p.m. from La Paz—located at 809 S. Willow St.—and a trio of local high schools: The Howard School, Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy and East Ridge High School.
The Spanish-language tours will be led by UTC students who can relate on some level to the attendees.
“Admissions is partnering with the Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures department to offer two internships for Spanish majors, prioritizing Hispanic students, because there’s more than a language barrier,” said Tejero.
Student tour guides like Andy Tomas will be able to earn college credit while getting paid for their time.
Tomas, a sophomore majoring in management with a minor in Spanish, has spent the last eight years in Chattanooga. Before that, he had to move back and forth between the U.S. and Guatemala practically every other year.
He is, by all accounts, a first-generation student.
“My dad had two or three years of elementary education and my mom only had one year of elementary education,” Tomas said. “I’m a first-generation elementary, middle school, high school and college student.”
Unique struggles come with being a first-generation student, and by becoming a Spanish-speaking tour guide, Tomas is helping to ease those struggles for future UTC students.
“I asked [my parents] for help when I had to do the FAFSA and my application, but they don’t really know anything about college,” he said. “It’s basically just me, but I don’t want that for other Hispanic students.”