Savannah Paschal started to understand the power individuals possess to help their community while a student at Campus High School. Whether organizing a cookie fundraiser to benefit a homeless shelter or serving as president of the art club, Paschal found rewards in getting involved.
“I was super invested,” Paschal said. “One simple lesson is to tackle problems that you can see.”
At Wichita State University, Paschal continued to expand the desire to serve the community through work with Alce su voz (Spanish for “speak out.”). The coalition’s purpose is to improve health equity for Spanish speakers and speakers of indigenous languages in Kansas.
Paschal, now a senior Spanish education major, wrote a proposal that helped Alce su voz earn a $75,000 Building Power and Equity Partnership grant from the Kansas Health Foundation. The grant will support civic engagement and the group’s work toward health equity for Spanish speakers and speakers of indigenous languages in Kansas.
Alce Su Voz also recently received a $250,000 grant from Increase the Reach for a vaccine equity project for indigenous communities from Guatemala in Kansas from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a $375,000 grant from the Office of Minority Health of the US Department of Health and Human Services for the first year of a three-year project to improve health care language access for Spanish speakers in Kansas.
Paschal’s work with Dr. Rachel Showstack and Alce su voz inspired the grant proposal. Showstack’s “Speaking Spanish in the U.S.” class gave Paschal examples of how students can help a community by letting stakeholders take part in research.
“She wants (students) to create projects that can be applied to real-world concepts,” Paschal said. “You shouldn’t feel hesitant to confront problems within your community. Just go do things. Go for it.”
The grant proposal that Paschal helped with will assist individuals who need language assistance attain the same quality of health care and information as those whose dominant language is English. Improved access to interpreters and bilingual clinicians, for example, are crucial to health equity.
Wichita State senior
“I always encourage my students to pursue the projects they write proposals for,” Showstack said. “The Kansas Health Foundation really understands the importance of civic engagement for health equity. They were able to see the value in the proposal, because of that understanding.”
The grant from KHF will be used to hold a series of Spanish-language community engagement and education workshops in Wichita and southwest Kansas in collaboration with the Wichita-based Latino health education organization Salud + Bienestar and Genesis Family Health, a federally qualified health center with clinics in Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal. The first workshop, “El compromiso cívio en nuestra comunidad hispana” (‘Civic engagement in our Hispanic community’), was held on Oct. 8, in the Evergreen Community Center and Library. The next event will address communicating with legislators during legislative session and will take place on Feb. 11 in the same location.
“These grants show that we’ve really gotten somewhere,” said Showstack, who founded Alce su voz in 2020. “We really need this additional support in order to get closer to our objective of addressing the problem of language access in health care from many different directions. We also need to continue to raise awareness in the community and support community members who need language assistance in understanding their rights.”
As Hispanic enrollment increases at Wichita State, the university is on track to earn designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution by 2030. WSU just reached the Emerging Hispanic Serving Institution status with its current 16% Hispanic student enrollment. Work such as Paschal’s proposal shows students they can collaborate with communities to address issues that impact their family and friends.
“These projects give an amazing opportunity for students to engage in something they care about, and that is very important for student retention,” Showstack said.