The mixture of English and Spanish languages were blending together in the background as the Latino community engaged with more than 20 groups at Latino Family Night on Monday.
Latino Family Night was designed to spread awareness of resources available to Latino and Hispanic communities in Bloomington. The event was at Bloomington North High School in the commons near the auditorium.
The emcee of the event Choonhyun Jeon, an employee of Monroe County Community School Corporation, said the event is so important because it helps people realize just how large the Spanish-speaking portion of the community is in Monroe County.
“Seventy-five languages are represented in our schools,” Jeon said. “Spanish speaking students are the largest group.”
Groups such as Wonderlab, Catholic Charities, Bloomington Police and IU admissions were all in attendance to help promote their own resources and raise awareness of their programs.
Olivia Wooten, an animal care expert at Wonderlab, said they were there to help promote a new exhibit that featured both English and Spanish languages, something Wonderlab has not done before.
“It’s the first time it’s been fully done,” Wooten said.
Wonderlab employees brought a snake, lizards and a large cup stacking game for many of the children to play with at the event.
Wooten wrapped the snake around her left arm and allowed spectators to touch and pet the snake.
“It’s just a sample of all our exhibits,” Wooten said. “It attracts attention.”
Wonderlab was there to promote their exhibits and provide a fun atmosphere, and Catholic Charities was there to speak about their mental health services.
Alicia Hopkins, a graduate student and intern at Catholic Charities, said the organization provides therapy for all ages and even functions with Medicaid and on a self-pay scale.
“You pay what you can afford,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins said this is her first time at the event, and Catholic Charities’ second year, but that she thinks it is a great idea.
“There’s a lot of info and a lot of support,” Hopkins said. “I think it’s awesome.”
BPD officer Drew Bazan was at Latino Family Night representing the Bloomington Police Dept. He said he was the only Latino officer at BPD to his knowledge and he thinks he provides a familiar face to people.
“I’m a more approachable face,” Bazan said. “And I speak Spanish, so that helps.”
Bazan and BPD had materials written in Spanish promoting gun safety, how to correctly place a car seat in a vehicle and even safety specific to Halloween. Bazan said that he thinks people know about the resources but does not know exactly how to do everything step-by-step.
IU Admission also had their own table and Larry Gonzalez, a senior associate director of admissions, said this was the seventh year they had been in attendance.
“I believe we’ve been involved each and every year,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said that a lot of Bloomington locals are unaware of the opportunities and scholarships that are available in Bloomington.
“We want to show all the wonderful opportunities available in people’s own backyard,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a win-win situation.”
The event provides an environment that for Latino community members to learn about resources in a way that is less intimidating, Gonzalez said.
Jeon said he was very excited by the number of groups at the event and said it shows the level of support available.
“We have tremendous support from the community,” Jeon said.
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