Student Spotlight: Bridging the Gap

August 28, 2015

Columbus senior Erica Ramirez

Erica Ramirez
Senior, Columbus Community High School

My name is Erica Ramirez and I am 17 years old. I was raised in Columbus Junction, Iowa for the majority of my life, but I was born in Chicago, Illinois. I am a senior at Columbus Community High School where I enjoy playing my saxophone, singing, and of course, writing.

I developed the project Cultural Connections: The Bridge in order to "bridge" a gap of communication in our community by publishing a trilingual newspaper. In addition to a diverse group of Caucasians, Columbus Junction also has a large Hispanic and Chin-Burmese population, and I felt that it would be a great service to them if they could access articles about community events, people, and special assistance available in their language. The publication is called "The Bridge" because it refers to the Historic Swinging Bridge in our town. This is a bridge that early residents of Columbus Junction used to get across a deep ravine and it is a highly relished, well-known attraction in our town that the people of Columbus Junction are truly proud of. With that in mind, I felt that it was appropriate to make the Swinging Bridge a symbol of my newspaper, a way of getting messages across to people of several cultures and languages.

Besides being published in English and Spanish, it is an immense challenge to find volunteers to translate articles into Hakha Chin. That being said, the number of translated Hakha Chin articles vary from issue to issue. Hakha Chin is the main dialect of the Chin-Burmese people of our town, many of whom are religiously persecuted refugees from the Chin state of Burma.

In my newspaper, I aim to provide a space where Caucasians, Hispanics, and Chin-Burmese alike are represented in the community. Often, I write personal stories of someone's success or struggle, I write informative articles on how to receive financial, basic needs, or educational assistance by highlighting specific programs and organizations, and lastly, write articles summarizing past events and providing options to attend future community events.

Columbus Junction has given much support for The Bridge. It is sponsored by Tyson Fresh Meats, The Columbus Community Club, the Stacy Lewis Funeral Home, and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Foundation. In addition, The Bridge was offered a publishing partnership with The Columbus Gazette in order to reach a wider in- and out-of-state audience. It was also featured in Hola America TV & Bilingual Newspaper, a bilingual media group based in the Quad Cities that reaches Latinos across the nation.

You may find my publication published not in but alongside The Columbus Gazette. I also personally distribute The Bridge outside The Gazette for free. Lastly, The Bridge is available to read online at Issuu, a free digital publishing platform.

If you would like to get in contact with Cultural Connections: The Bridge, you can call (319)728-7283 or email Thank you for your interest in our community!