Bowman welcomes Hispanic residentsCommunities in Bowman County are embracing a large influx of Hispanic people who have moved into the area, officials said Monday. “We estimate there are probably about 80 Hispanic individuals that have moved to the community,” said Ashley Alderson, executive director of the Bowman County Development Corp.
Communities in Bowman County are embracing a large influx of Hispanic people who have moved into the area, officials said Monday.
“We estimate there are probably about 80 Hispanic individuals that have moved to the community,” said Ashley Alderson, executive director of the Bowman County Development Corp.
Rather than allowing a language barrier to exist, the community has made several efforts to break through it, she said.
“I think that no matter what, when you have a change in your population and you welcome new cultures, there’s always going to be a couple stumbling blocks to get integrated with one another, but I think that our community has done a good job with welcoming them with open arms,” Alderson said. “They’ve done a good job with becoming part of our community.”
The local Rotary Club secured a grant for a program to teach English and Spanish at the Bowman Regional Public Library, said Librarian Leah King.
There are two computers for Spanish-speakers to learn English and one for English-speakers to learn Spanish, she said.
In addition, Alderson and the Strom Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Dickinson are teaming up to bring diversity training to Bowman County, she and Steve Glasser, Strom Center executive director said.
“We’re just in the very beginning stages of getting that program set up,” Alderson said.
She wants to do one training for the overall community and then another that targets school and health care officials.
Alderson also wants the training to involve more than the Hispanic population.
“I mean diversity across genders, across ages, across nationalities — a more broad sense of diversity,” Alderson said.
The overall population of Bowman County hasn’t changed much, but over the last three years, Hispanic families have increased dramatically, she said.
“Several of them came up here to work in the oil field,” she said. “Because they’re so close-knit, when a couple of them came up, it was easy for them to have the rest of their family come up and live with them.”
Liz Peterson, Bowman County Elementary School principal, said 28 of the 445 students enrolled in the district are Hispanic.
“The problem we are having is many of the parents don’t speak English,” Peterson said. “We were just really, really fortunate that we have a woman in the community who was a paraprofessional for us and happens to speak Spanish.”
However, she mostly translates for parents and can’t be an interpreter in the classroom, she said.
Up until a few years ago, every student spoke English so teachers have had to rethink how they teach, Peterson said.
“This year, one of my veteran teachers got a Spanish-speaking student for the first time and she came into my office in somewhat of a panic,” she said.
The teacher is now grateful for the experience because it’s made her teaching more effective, Peterson said.
“She said all the rest of them are understanding it better too because they pay more attention and are making more of a concerted effort,” she said.
Hispanic students in the district speak varying degrees of English, Peterson said.
“Those students are generally immersed into the classroom and then the classroom teachers have to make the accommodations and find the ways to reach them,” Peterson said. “It’s really fun to watch how they grow — how fast they pick it up, especially the younger ones.”
High school students pick it up faster than anticipated, too, she said.
Students seem to accept their new classmates as well, Peterson said.
“It’s been a learning experience for us and it’s probably enriched our school because we have a new way of looking at things and a new culture,” she said.