Experiencing Our Town:
In The Words of Women Immigrants in Columbus, Indiana
BY: Joseline Medina
My name is Estefania Joseline Medina. I am 22 years old; I am from Mexico City, Mexico. When I was three years old, I came to the US with my parents. We came as immigrants in search of our new future and better opportunities. In the beginning, this was just a foreign place where the surroundings, the language, and the customs were so different from where we came from. Soon enough, however, it became and is now everything I have ever known.
Columbus, Indiana, gave me the opportunity to attend great schools such as First Presbyterian Preschool, St. Bartholomew Catholic School, Columbus North High School, and Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus (IUPUC). My loving, hard-working, and courageous parents always encouraged me to be involved and give back to the community that has made us feel welcomed since arriving in 1999. This community has offered me the opportunity to be involved in Girl Scouts, choir, Parks & Rec soccer, volleyball, high school track, clubs and church groups. I have been given many opportunities to give back by volunteering at soup kitchens, Cheer Fund, Love Chapel, and playing bingo with seniors in a retirement community. After being involved in so many volunteer experiences, I truly learned to value everything that my family had.
Today, I am a senior at IUPUC majoring in Criminal Justice, and I am president of the Latino-American Organization of Volunteers in Education (LOVE). This organization strives to encourage Latino students to attend college and help others in the community. We partner with many well-recognized organizations that have been in the community for many years, many of which helped our families and us as students. Some of the organizations we have had the pleasure of collaborating with include Family School Partners, Su Casa Columbus, The Heritage Fund: The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, and the Community Education Coalition. I currently work as a Bilingual Communications Interpreter for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (BCSC) in the English Learning (EL) Department. My job allows me to communicate and interact with non-English speaking families and provide them with knowledge of the US education system and facilitate the ability to communicate with their children’s schools. I believe that the biggest reason why I have been very involved in my community is because I know that coming to a foreign place is not easy, but I have also witnessed the wonderful opportunities of education, jobs, and life that Columbus offers.
One of the things that I have appreciated about Columbus and that not many people know is that there are many resources and people willing to help. For instance, the person who helped and guided my family since we arrived and who was also my first English teacher through Family School Partners was Mary Ellen Nelson. I do not think that my family could have accomplished everything that we have if it had not been for her guidance and knowledge of the community.
There are many more people just like Mary Ellen Nelson in the community who are willing to assist families and help us feel welcome. My parents, brother, and I could never thank her enough for all that she has done for our family. I would like to end with a final and humorous incident in which Mary Ellen was there to help my family. When I started kindergarten at St. Bartholomew’s, my mother would practice her driving by taking me to school, but on that Labor Day we showed up to an empty school. My mother and I waited for at least an hour before calling Mary Ellen to ask why there was no one at the school. We called her and learned that in the US, Labor Day is a day in which there is no school. That is a holiday that does not exist in Mexico; therefore, we were unfamiliar. I was a little sad at the time because I didn’t get to go to school, but later on this has become something that we laugh about.