Volunteering Brings Rewards

May 6, 2016 | | Faculty Spotlight, Internal Press Release

katheryn thompson

Chattanooga, TN (May 6, 2016) --- Dr. Katheryn Thompson sat in shock when her name was announced as this year’s United Way Community Volunteer Award winner. Thompson, nominated by La Paz Chattanooga, is a Professor of Spanish at Chattanooga State Community College. She is well known among her students, colleagues and the community for her steadfast commitment to the nonprofit agency whose mission is to empower and engage Chattanooga’s Latino population through advocacy, education, and inclusion.

As a long-established La Paz volunteer, Thompson says, “I make myself available when they need bilingual help, and when they put out the call, I will go, if my schedule allows.” She shares that when the Guatemalan Consular staff visits Chattanooga, it is usually on a weekend and that she sets aside the entire weekend to help as much as she can. “Because I know the paperwork so well, I am often called upon to instruct other volunteers, freeing up La Paz to assist with other duties,” adds Thompson.

Promoting the spirit of volunteerism is important to Thompson. “Chattanooga State’s close connection to the community makes it imperative that we craft goals and design curriculum that utilizes that connection to enhance and broaden the learning experience for our students,” she states. Students have the opportunity to work at La Paz as interns, and also provide all the work for the Thanksgiving Food Drive each year. The Spanish Club, as well as other clubs, organizations and students, collect and box up all sorts of non-perishable food. It is delivered to La Paz, usually the Friday before Thanksgiving, where the agency already has a list of families in need and handles the distribution. “It’s a wonderful public service,” shares Thompson.

These hands-on opportunities to volunteer, through La Paz and other agencies, allow students to learn about the range of social services available to Latino immigrants and the obstacles they face, such as the complexity of immigration issues for families that are caught between two countries.

In addition to helping La Paz, Chattanooga State offers a Spanish fieldwork class, SPAN-1990. “This class allows ambitious students the chance to earn course credit for working as an intern at an agency with Spanish-speaking clients,” says Thompson, proudly.

 “Katheryn’s heart for service perfectly embodies our mission as a community college. Well done, Dr. Thompson!” expresses Dr. Joel Henderson, Chattanooga State Humanities Department Chair.

For more information about volunteering at agencies that serve the Latino community, call Dr. Thompson at 423-697-3387 or email katheryn.thompson@chattanoogastate.edu.