Contest Proposal: Multiple language assistance for California Voters (Aug. 2011-Nov. 2012)

Dear Readers,


As a College English instructor since 2004, I have taught English composition and research skills to a diverse group of people who come from a variety of different backgrounds and languages.  While some of these students are fresh out of high school and eager to start college, many other students are adult workers who are returning to school after several or many years.  While some of these students speak, read, and write English as their first and native language, many others use English as their second or third language, so they have limited English proficiency skills.  Some of these people may be proficient in conversational English, but struggle with reading or writing English, and this situation negatively affects their ability to fully participate as active members in their respective communities.


Among all of these students and adult community members, however, there are two unifying factors:  1) they all want to improve their English language skills and increase their education; and 2) they all want to find better and higher-paying jobs in order to improve their daily lives for themselves and/or their families.


While many of these young and adult students, and community members at large, are eligible to vote in the State of California's elections, however, many of them don't do so--either because they have not yet registered to vote (and don't know how to do so), or they haven't been interested in voting (largely because they are unfamiliar with what the state and federal issues are), or that they simply don't realize that through community organization, voters can have a positive impact on dealing with our state and federal government's issues by voting for better laws and legislation--not just for the State of California, but also for our entire country.


My enthusiasm for providing language assistance to eligible voters--in their native language--is partially due to my participation in past elections.  However, since I also provide interpreting assistance for California's Court Interpreter Program, as well, I regularly see how a lack of sufficient English language skills can negatively affect people's lives.  Although I continue to teach the English language, provide interpreting assistance, and volunteer to host voter registration drives, though, in my opinion, that's still not enough.  People need language assistance to discuss issues within their communities and to learn how they can become active, participating voters and community members.


I therefore strongly believe that using Blackboard Collaborate to increase voter and community participation, by providing multiple language assistance (just as our DMV offices do for driving tests in multiple languages), is an excellent way to use Blackboard Collaborate.  I am confident that many of my fellow teacher and interpreter colleagues (who speak, read, and write in a second language) would be willing to contribute to this exceptionally worthy cause.  We need to strengthen our communities and to support legislation that will help us confront and solve problems in our local communities and federal government.


Please support this contest proposal to use Blackboard Collaborate in this vital way.  I assure you that many people will benefit from using this helpful voter language assistance.  Obviously, all of our U.S. states can similarly use Blackboard Collaborate to assist their eligible voters, too.  :)


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Comment by Sally Jo Diessner on July 31, 2011 at 11:21am
Thanks so much for the compliment and excellent suggestion!  I regularly work with librarians at the two colleges where I teach college composition (Columbia College Hollywood and Colorado Technical University Online) and every term I take students on library tours, as well.  :)
Comment by Rushton Hurley on July 25, 2011 at 9:13pm
I love the concept - perhaps you could partner with libraries to reach those who would benefit from your project.

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