By: Samantha Calderon Romero
(Pre-covid picture of Profesora Paredes conversating with students in Spanish class.)
A Latina woman from Ecuador that came to revolutionize the Spanish program at the University of Saint Mary. First generation immigrant who succeeds in a foreign country by making way for more Latinx students to pursue their dreams. She made pivotal improvements to the Spanish program expanding the learning experience, material, and inclusivity, thereby better preparing students for intellectual discussions about Spanish speaking countries’ history, culture, and language.
From her family she always received support for her pursuance of an education. Since early in life, she knew her gift was to explain and make people comprehend, therefore she chose teaching. “Providing the value of languages is important to us, for me, my program, my students, and Spanish club” explained Dr Paredes.
(Profesora Paredes lecturing students, in upper-level Spanish class)
Sofia Paredes is the Associate Professor of the Spanish program at University of Saint Mary. She started working at USM in august 2015 with a few pre-stablished Spanish classes. The University gave her a permanent position and opportunity to develop the Spanish program. Herself a first-generation student, she instantly admired the commitment the educational institution shows with first generation students and diversity.
“I admire her willingness to explore pretty controversial topics in order to teach us more in depth about Hispanic culture.” Rebecca Porter, a minor in Spanish at USM explained. Dr. Paredes believes firmly that representation for different Latinxs backgrounds in professional areas is positively impactful. Thanks to her the Spanish program at USM is stable and diverse on the topics and classes provided. When she started working at USM, Dr. Paredes noticed that the emphasis on Spanish classes were based on literature, this motivated her into creating new classes that could expand student’s perspective of the different cultures of Spanish speaking countries, she also developed classes that talked about history and politics of Spanish speaking countries. The Spanish program grew from two minors to fifteen a year since its start.
Even during the pandemic, Dr Paredes has strived to make students feel included and represented. In the new normalcy many projects are being canceled, however Dr. Paredes has managed to carry out projects in a safe way despite the adversities, a clear example is the celebration of The Day of The Dead at USM.
(Pre-covid picture of Profesora Paredes with the Spanish Club.)
The Day of the Dead is a celebration from various Spanish speaking countries that everyone can participate in by putting a picture of their loved one on an altar dedicated to remembering dear people who have passed away. One of her accomplishments is making people feel included and represented. At USM, The Day of The Dead was celebrated with a physical altar and a virtual one. This event was sponsored by the Spanish club.
Another achievement of Dr Paredes is to have started the Spanish club, in the very near future she plans to start a Latinx group to directly address the needs of Latinx students. She is motivated to bring awareness about and support for under-represented people like Latinx. In the future, the Professor wants to keep empowering Latinx students at USM and keep expanding perspectives of Spanish speaking countries’ cultures.
Spanish minor, Gladys Gonzales, said was encouraged when the Professor said, “keep moving forward and working hard even though you don’t have the same privilege and resources other students have.” Dr Paredes is a first-generation immigrant thereby has experienced having a different culture than the dominating one. She makes an impact on students at Saint Mary by making them feel welcomed and represented. The professor recognizes that the needs for the various groups that lay under the Latinx umbrella are necessary to address correctly, she makes the effort to include all of them and to empower them by giving them a voice of their own.
“I think we need to promote empowering Latinx students to reflect on their experience, and to make demands about their needs in order to create those spaces for them” said Dr Paredes. For her it is very pivotal in life to shift from a personal experience into a collective one in order to unify by comprehending and recognizing our cultures. Her goal is for students and Latinx people to realize they are not alone, that they are a group, and they deserve to have their voices heard and be able to fight for their rights.
Dr Paredes lives by her words, “It’s not the work of just one person, we work together.”