Liaison Interpreters Program of Somerville (LIPS)

Our liaison interpreters at the Immigrant Health Fair and Flu ClinicThe Liaison Interpreter Program of Somerville (LIPS) is the cornerstone of our youth program. LIPS provides opportunities for bilingual high school students to learn language interpretation skills and to practice those skills at community meetings and events throughout the city.

For many bilingual and bicultural youth, the language of their parents home country is often seen only as a deficit, their bilingualism seldom encouraged. Yet, the children of today’s immigrants, like earlier waves of immigrants to this city, often play the vital role of family interpreter/translator and mediator in social and civic interactions with the mainstream culture. LIPS helps young people to transform their bilingual strenghts that they use in with family members into an asset that can be used in the community.  

In Somerville, where nearly 30% of residents were not born in this country and 66% of public high school students are from homes where English is not the first language, immigrant families face many barriers. From accessing appropriate health services to involvement in the PTA and exploring college options, immigrant youth and their parents are less able to get the information and resources they need than families more familiar with the city’s culture, language, and institutions.

By focusing LIPS services on community issues, we provide a natural bridge between skill-building for career advancement and knowledge-building and leadership development for effective community engagement.

LIPS is designed to help make a change, both for the youth from immigrant families and for the larger immigrant community in the city. LIPS helps bilingual youth catalyze the use of their unique skills to promote their own development while also supporting the engagement of immigrant famililiesin the civic life of the city. This year LIPS will:

  • Train 15 Somerville high school students to provide effective interpretation assistance at community meetings. By transforming bilingualism from a perceived deficit to an asset, we enable youth from immigrant families to gain a marketable skill and earn money while they also become agents of change in the community. LIPS includes modules and training developed for us by CrossCultural Communications Systems Inc (CCCS)of Woburn, MA as well as a 20-week leadership development program for participating youth.
  • Increase civic participation of immigrant families in community issues. In our model, LIPS youth not only develop their skills as interpreters, but also as leaders and change agents who facilitate the involvement of their parents and their parents’ social networks. By supplementing the existing brokering role that these teens have in their families with professional training and content-based knowledge, we will more effectively engage the adult population on issues of concern to them.

As part of their training, LIPS youth assist as guides and liaison interpreters in community settings. In 2010-11, 14 Somerville bilingual high school students completed the program. In addition to English, four other languages were represented among the LIPS youth: Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, and Nepali.

LIPS have received training to work in a great variety of community meetings and events including

  • served as guides at an immigrant community flu clinic and health fair,
  • assisted at meetings about the planned Green Line extension in Somerville,
  • conducted outreach to day laborers at Foss Park for a workers's health clinic ,
  • helped immigrant parents at a Somerville Public Schools meeting about planning for college,
  • assisted parents with Federal Financial Aid forms (FAFSA) at College Goal Sunday,
  • trained about occupational hazards for immigrant day laborers and then assisted in interpretation at "Exposed at Work" a community dialogue and performance about risks faced by day laborers in Somerville.
  • assisted at focus groups for Limited English Profient parents to learn about barriers and concerns parents face in helping their children in school,

The Liaison training is a pathway to future certification in medical or legal interpreting when youth turn 18, and the training program and community practice is an important source of current income. Professional interpreters can earn $50/hour.

Proficiency as an interpreter is also a valuable and highly sought supplement to an existing position, such as a medical technician, nurse, or aide.

By focusing LIPS services on community issues, we provide a natural bridge between skill-building for career advancement and knowledge-building and leadership development for effective community engagement.

 

Digital Story

The LIPS Program Digital Story, Fall 2008

 

News and Notes

Youth Interpreter First in Her Family to Go to College (Somerville Patch), May 2011

LIPS Youth Use Their Bilingual Skills to Empower Community, October 2010

Finding the Power of Words, (Boston Globe), August 2010

Five Somerville youth certified as co-investigators for community-based research project, August 2010

The Liaison Interpreters Program of Somerville (LIPS) kicks off a new season with more languages than ever!, November 9, 2009

A Welcome Project Graduation, June 6, 2009

Youth lead Welcoming MA event in Somerville, Jan 27, 2009