A Glimpse Into the Corazon and Alma of Our Community

A Glimpse Into the Corazon and Alma of Our Community

Posted on August 13, 2022 by Michael Zimmerman, TPF Fellow 2021/23

Eleven months ago, I embarked on a journey with The Patterson Foundation (TPF) in partnership with Solmart Media through TPF’s Aspirations Journalism initiative. Eager to re-engage my Spanish-language skills and discover where they could be put to good use, I was swiftly introduced to Mercedes Soler and Tomas Martinez, co-owners of Solmart Media. Soler and Martinez manage multiple radio stations spanning TPF’s four-county region and beyond. TPF identified an opportunity to reach Spanish speakers by producing informative programming to be aired live in Spanish on Solmart’s radio stations, thus connecting community members in need to resources in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and counties.

The programs produced over the year focused on classes for English learners, pre-K and kindergarten registration, The Power of Presence, and many other programs that connected resources to needs in the community. Programs featured leaders, community partners, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, businesses, and other entities supporting Spanish speakers in the region. Some programming featured United Way Suncoast, Manatee Literacy Council, Literacy Council of Sarasota, Sarasota County Schools, Joy Thomas Moore’s The Power of Presence, and various topics and themes.

Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, produced the radio program content with brilliant intention by analyzing data and listening to the community’s needs to drive the strategy. In my role, I orchestrated the planning and implementation of the initiative’s radio programs and managed processes and relationships to guide programming with excellence to its airdate.

Many resources in our community are in English, which can create a challenge for non-English speakers. As you can imagine, being immersed in a world where the mainstream does not speak your native tongue can be daunting and challenging. As a result, many Spanish-speaking neighbors struggle to access critical communal resources. Breaking down language barriers can foster a more inclusive community.

The community undoubtedly felt the positive ripples from TPF’s catalytic programming, which permeated barriers. Catapulting from the successes of these episodes, Mercedes and Tomas furthered their investment in the community by partnering with Suncoast Remake Learning Days (SRLD), a 10-day festival of events that encouraged community-wide participation in creative learning spaces throughout the Suncoast region. Solmart Media hosted a SRLD event at Acapulco Tropical Supermarket, where they engaged Spanish-speaking community members around the theme of Youth Voice. Children from across the community shared their aspirations for what they want to do when they grow up. Spanish-speaking children, ages 3-18, shared their aspirations to be doctors, nurses, lawyers, journalists, firefighters, police officers, religious leaders, activists, and artists.

After working on this initiative, I empathize with the challenges our Spanish-speaking neighbors must confront daily. I realized that this work is about making our community more inclusive. How can we make resources accessible to anyone who speaks another language and wants to be part of our community? Our community’s shared responsibility to help all families and children of all backgrounds and languages can change realities for so many. Providing resources in other languages can foster wide participation and engagement, building a stronger and more inclusive Suncoast.

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