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Graduate will put his fluency in many languages
to use as health care interpreter
May 5, 2015
As a tour operator running his own business in his native Dominican Republic, Oscar Pacheco, 32, had to be able to communicate with a variety of people. As a result, in addition to fluent English, Spanish and French, he speaks a little Italian and German. He said he enjoys helping others, and the effort he's put into learning multiple languages no doubt helps with that.
But when Pacheco, who now lives in Cranston, graduates from CCRI this month with his Health Care Interpreter Certificate, he'll proudly be helping a new demographic of people who need it most. "This is my first certified career," he said, "so to me, it's an amazing feeling. It puts you on another level in society – everyone looks at you differently when you have a career."
When Pacheco came to the country in 2009 after his mother, who lives in Providence, successfully petitioned for his visa, he made ends meet by working as an independent contractor, doing landscaping, cargo moving and junk removal. But he knew that he wanted more, and that starting classes at CCRI could put it within his reach. There was only one problem: He was scared to enroll.
"I had a bad experience with school in the past," he said, "so it makes me go through a lot of stress. If someone mentioned school, I would just freak out."
He overcame the fear with the help of CCRI's Connect 2 College program, which helps first-generation college students navigate the college experience. He was able to find mentors within the program as well as in the classroom, such as Robin Smith, his ESL instructor and associate vice president of the college's Workforce Partnerships. Even when he felt like throwing in the towel, they kept him on track with encouragement and attention.
"It's very easy to find help everywhere you go at CCRI," said Pacheco, who is graduating with a 3.23 GPA. "You just need to ask for it. There's always a mentor to help you, and this school really helped me to relax and get things done. Having cultural barriers could have made it very difficult to cope with classes, but I found professors who were patient and helpful."
Pacheco hopes to channel the altruistic spirit he absorbed during his time at CCRI with patients and their families who are in the hospital. He first found out about the career when he took his mother to visit Rhode Island Hospital; for a person who places emphasis on his Christian faith, he said, it's important for him to have a career that gives back to the community.
Pacheco said he first hopes to volunteer before finding a job. "I'm trying to focus on helping people get the right treatment, and be compassionate. We all struggle thinking about money, because we need money to survive, but for me it's about serving through my interpreting," he said.
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