Johnson County Community College
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Diane Carroll, writer/editor/media relations, ext. 3425
Tyler Cundith, sports information director, ext. 3122

First cadre of legal interpreters complete certificates at JCCC


First cadre of legal interpreters complete certificates at JCCC

Legal interpreting grads
Photo by Berni Freeman, JCCC procurement administrative assistant

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – For the first time ever at Johnson County Community College, a cadre of students received their certificates in legal interpreting.

They’ll be prepared to work on behalf of the court so Spanish-speaking plaintiffs and defendants fully understand the court system and the legal decisions being made.

The program began in the spring semester of 2013 after Judge Karen Arnold-Burger approached Anita Tebbe, professor and chair of legal studies at JCCC. Arnold-Burger said she saw a desperate need for well-trained interpreters who had some legal background.

“I knew that judges, who have the responsibility to make sure that translators meet the statutory criteria, could trust in the quality of the skills associated with that certification of completion from JCCC,” she said.

Eleven students formed the first cohort. The 20-credit-hour certificate program combines a mix of interpreting classes with introductory law classes and legal ethics.

Tebbe taught the law classes, and Marcela Renna and Mary Ella Steck, both adjunct assistant professors, taught the interpreting classes.

Students must be fluent in both English and Spanish, and they are tested on their language skills before admittance to program. The last step to earning the certificate is a comprehensive skills exam and a professional practicum.

Students receiving certificates on May 16, 2014, include:

  • Iveth Alvarado, Olathe
  • Elisa Arzabala, Bonner Springs
  • Perla Cuevas, Overland Park
  • Sonia De La Torre-Aponte, Topeka
  • Cinthia Ebertz, Edwardsville, Kansas
  • Stefany Garcia, Olathe
  • Armando Herrera, Bonner Springs
  • Yesenia Mendez Garcia, Ottawa
  • Karmen Podhola, Johnson County, Kansas
  • Ena Lucia Yordana Rivera de Guzman, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Olimpia Tyner, Lawrence, Kansas

“I am really looking forward to interpreting for the courts,” said Rivera de Guzman. “I’ll be able to run my own business, be my own boss, and still help people,” she said.

Rivera de Guzman was a lawyer in Bolivia, but she when she moved to the United States, she didn’t want to return to law school because she was concerned about her ability to understand the complicated U.S. court system as a non-native speaker.

Her two children – now a teenager and a preschooler – also needed her time. She said she considers legal interpreting her ideal career.

For more information about the legal interpreting program and the health care interpreting program at JCCC, contact Christina Wolff, assistant professor of foreign language at (913) 469-8500 ext. 3513.