Mary Immaculate Health/Care Services residents participate in their Spanish/English language class. Photo courtesy of Mary Immaculate Health/Care Services.

What started as a simple request at Mary Immaculate Health/Care Services (MI) in Lawrence, MA, quickly turned into a fun exploration of the English and Spanish languages. 

This past August, MaryLuz Roldan, activities coordinator at MI’s Residential Community, was hosting bingo in Spanish and was approached by an English-speaking resident.

“She simply said, ‘I want to learn Spanish. I want to play bingo in Spanish and talk with other residents. Can you help me learn?’” said Roldan. “I’m Puerto Rican but I was born and raised in the United States. There are many advantages to speaking multiple languages – and our residents appreciate that.”

Roldan saw this as an opportunity to not only develop residents’ language skills but to educate them about the Lawrence community at large, given its demographics. According to the Census, 82.3 percent of Lawrence residents identify as Hispanic or Latino. With consultation and assistance from her colleagues in the activities department, Roldan started a weekly language class so residents could learn more about English and Spanish. The first class drew more than 15 residents who were eager to get started. 

“Our residents want to try new things. They’re excited to connect with others, make new friends and communicate with bilingual staff members in Spanish,” says Roldan. “I use television, YouTube videos and worksheets as teaching tools. I even assign homework.”

Not only has the class been highly informative, it’s also provided a nice social routine for many of the residents. As the holiday season approaches, some are even giving their traditions a little Spanish flavor. 

“Many in the group are learning the Rosary in Spanish,” said Roldan. “It’s been wonderful to see so many residents embrace the opportunity to be open, connect and learn from others.”