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October 2018 - Candice Rhodes

With a sunny disposition and endless enthusiasm for her Spanish studies, Candice’s presence brightens any class she joins. Her delightful sense of humor finds an outlet both during class in her playful attitude and in the creative and often hilarious compositions she comes up with for her homework assignments, fomenting feelings of camaraderie and inspiring her classmates to follow suit. Formerly a social worker, she’s now a culinary instructor who seizes the opportunity to use the Spanish she’s learning with native-speakers with whom she works and mingles. We’re thrilled to count Candice as a part of our community at Tierra and can’t wait to see how her passion for learning continues to cultivate her impressive progress.


Name: Candice Rhodes
Occupation: Barista & Culinary Instructor (former social worker)
Time Studying at Tierra: 14 months

1) Why are you studying Spanish?

"At first I wanted to learn to advance my social work career. I attempted to learn Spanish after college, but the classes just weren't very high quality and I felt like I wasn't learning anything.  Later, I moved into a community with lots of bilingual friends, and was jealous of their ability to chat with native Spanish speakers in the neighborhood. The day I decided I was going to learn Spanish was in June 2017.  A group of neighbor-friends and I walked down to our community orchard to pick strawberries.  there was a Spanish speaking family there, and every single one of my friends was able to chat with the kids and the mom in Spanish, and I was the only one not engaging in conversation.  I started taking classes at Tierra the following August.  Later, I re-met this family at Zenger Farm where I volunteer in their cooking workshops.  I found out that the mom was one of the community chefs.  During my volunteering, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her, and as I continued to study Spanish I was able to chat with her more and more.  As I've learned more and more Spanish I've fallen in love with the language and am so excited to become more fluent."

2) What is your favorite part about your experience here at Tierra?

"I love the small class sizes because you get lots of practice speaking, listening, and conversing. I took Spanish classes at a community college after getting my degree in social work, but the classes were so big it was always either way too easy or way too hard to learn.  I’m always trying to get people to take Spanish classes here and I always tell them “it’s the best—there are no more than 8 students in each class, it’s intimate enough that you can ask a quick clarifying question of the teacher without disrupting the entire class, so you don’t get lost.”  And the free student support session is a great way to practice one on one, but also get a sense for how you’re doing individually in conversation.  The teachers are engaging and fun (they think I’m funny!) and I've learned more quickly than I could've imagined." 

3) Can you tell us of a time you have been able to use what you have learned studying here?

"(This kind of ties in with the first question). This summer I worked at Zenger Farm as a cooking camp counselor.  It's a nonprofit where they have cooking workshops and summer camps. I also have been volunteering there since summer 2017 with their community chef program.  Community chefs are all women of color who represent the ethnic diversity of east Portland.  They teach cooking workshops about dishes that they made growing up in their home country and continue to cook for their families in Portland.  Many of these women are Spanish speaking and they hail from El Salvador, Oaxaca, and Hidalgo, Mexico.  They are all multi-lingual but at varying degrees of proficiency in English, so it was often necessary to use Spanish to communicate as we cooked alongside each other  As I've learned more Spanish and have grown in confidence I have been able to communicate with them more easily.  I started out saying simple phrases but after a year learning at Tierra, I feel much more confidence in even trying to talk with them and am able to have more meaningful conversations. I also was asked to do childcare for another program at Zenger, and they said the needed someone who has at least a basic knowledge of Spanish to do the childcare for the Spanish speaking parents and children.  I told them my experience, and since they couldn't find any bilingual folks available to do the childcare they said my skills would suffice.  Which I took as a huge compliment!  And I realized it's the first time I got a job--though it is a small job--where I get to use Spanish!!  It felt pretty surreal.  I also practice Spanish at the Lents International Farmers' market at my favorite stand "N and N Farms" and I chat with Nicolas one of the owners and learn the names of various veggies in Spanish, as well as experiment with cooking all the unusual winter squashes they sell, including a really unique melon-like squash called chilacayote."

¡Felicidades Candice!