Grace Spanish Students Apply Classroom Knowledge to Help Neighbors in Need

Grace College Spanish students Shoshannah Bontrager, Ashmine Minnie and Katelyn Ware volunteering at We Care Warsaw.

Grace College Spanish students Shoshannah Bontrager, Ashmine Minnix and Katelyn Ware volunteering at We Care Warsaw.


It is one thing to practice a foreign language in the classroom, but quite another to put your proficiency to the test in a real-world setting.  For fourteen Grace College Spanish students, the test came in an opportunity to assist the Northern Indiana Hispanic Health Coalition (NIHHC) during We Care Warsaw on Nov. 19.  The annual event at Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church includes a health fair for local individuals and families with economic needs.  Many of those served are Spanish speakers reliant on others to make important medical information understandable in their native language.

Grace College assistant professor of Spanish, Benjamin Navarro, learned of NIHHC’s need for Spanish speakers and thought We Care Warsaw would be a great opportunity for Spanish majors and minors to integrate their studies with service.  “Community projects are one of the best ways for students to demonstrate their language skills outside of the classroom,” he said.  “Grace’s core values are character, competence and service.  This project incorporates all three.”

To prepare for the one-day health fair, Grace students trained for five hours with NIHHC representatives to learn about the health examinations given at We Care Warsaw, how to help administer them and effectively communicate individuals’ results with them.

During We Care Warsaw, 42 Hispanic participants obtained 340 free health examinations.  These included body mass index, glucose, blood pressure, oxygen, pulse, anemia and waist circumference measurement.

“Each of the participants benefited from a personal explanation of their examination from a Spanish speaker,” said Patricia Garcia Stiles, program coordinator for NIHHC. “They now understand the state of their health and ways to improve it.”

Stiles called the Grace College volunteers “key to the success of the fair.”

“The students gave 110 percent with every person they helped,” said Stiles.  In addition to the satisfaction received from helping others, Grace students learned first-hand about local Hispanic culture and the resources in place to assist Hispanics.

Shoshannah Bontrager, a Grace senior minoring in Spanish from Middlebury, Ind., found the experience informative and enjoyable.  “We Care Warsaw was the perfect opportunity to help people while practicing Spanish,” said Bontrager. “It was exciting to converse with native Spanish-speakers instead of other students in the classroom, and I think the practice will benefit me during my study abroad in Argentina.”

Shoshannah will travel to Argentina next fall to fulfill a study abroad experience for her Spanish minor.  The Grace College Spanish program combines on-campus courses with a required study abroad trip to one of Grace’s member institutions in Argentina or Spain.  There, students apply their faith and skillsets in Hispanic culture.   The Grace Spanish program equips students to interact in authentic situations like We Care Warsaw using Spanish, and to live intentionally as global citizens.

For more information about the Grace College Spanish program, contact Benjamin Navarro at 574-372-5100, ext. 6282 or For more information about the Northern Indiana Hispanic Health Coalition, visit

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