Breaking Down Language Barriers

[CLINTON, N.C.] – One of the best ways Sampson Community College affects its community is by creating programs and courses to accommodate the needs within its specific area. For instance, Sampson County is known as an agri-business mainstay and SCC has adapted with its course offerings. Another very large portion of the county is the Spanish speaking community. 

The Community Spanish Interpreter program at SCC aims to create proficiency among those who will enter the workforce with the need to be able to successfully translate between English and Spanish, respectively. Through the program, students gain real experience working in different institutions where they interpret and translate documents from English to Spanish. 

Patricia Willoughby, Spanish instructor at SCC says, “While a large part of the program is about translation between the two languages, another aspect is working in an organization where the student has an interest for future career plans.” In the Work Based Learning course (WBL), Willoughby places students in a professional position, then trains them onsite. 

Lerma-WilloughbyPHOTO: Willoughby (R) goes over notes with Lerma at the Clinton Police Department.

Diana Lerma, whose job is with the Clinton Police Department, says the program is invaluable. “My ultimate goal is to be an attorney, so working with the police gives me an understanding of the department’s role within the legal system,” she says. “It is also beneficial for police to be able to communicate or understand in both languages because of the large Spanish speaking population here.” Lerma says when she was told she had the opportunity to work with police, she saw it as a door opening to a future career path. 

“The City of Clinton has always maintained a strong relationship with Sampson Community College and we were excited to help,” said Chief Donald Edwards of the Clinton PD. “We saw this as a benefit for us as much as it is for the student and college.” Lerma is working as an Administrative Specialist. Her duties include records management, customer service, and providing translation service to Spanish speaking customers. She also reviews and revises the Spanish versions of informational and safety pamphlets for the department.  

For more information about the Community Spanish Interpreter program, contact Patricia Willoughby at