Robinson gives back with power of language


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Kudos to Julie Robinson and the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Community Relations Commission. The commission, which has made many outstanding selections over the years, honored a most deserving individual in selecting Robinson the winner of this year's Witherspoon-Harris Award.

The award is given annually in the name of two local men, both deceased, W.C. Witherspoon and Cader Harris, who, as friends and like-minded individuals, championed causes of bringing people together, responding to under-served populations and working to overcome racial divides across the community. Robinson exemplifies those principles.

She has been a volunteer for more than a decade as a tutor, mentor and interpreter for the "La Casa," a program centered at First United Methodist Church, where Hispanic children get help navigating their English-language educational objectives, as well as their English-speaking surroundings.

Her background from a long career in public education — as a Spanish teacher — apparently provided a solid foundation for her formidable post-retirement contributions at La Casa. Yet, Robinson's widely-regarded success in the program apparently is as much about her passion for wanting to help her community. She has been doing that by enabling others to overcome the barriers of language.

Those barriers, which can be overlooked in an English-only speaking community, often separate citizens, limit individuals from reaching their full potential and hinder their transition toward a productive life. Ultimately, the barrier of communication can choke off the benefits of cooperation and interaction that strengthen communities. That's why Robinson's contributions are so important.

She also makes the commitment of working with the parents of her tutored students — many who have little or no English speaking skills themselves. As she told our reporter Jon Hawley last week, parents also need language support if they are to help their children in school — which as educators and parents agree, is a prerequisite for success in education.

Another long list of involvements occupy Robinson's remaining hours and days, as she takes on the role of interpreter and teacher, a regular in the SOULS Feeding Ministry and as a volunteer for the “Room at the Inn” program for the homeless.

Except for those directly involved, the day-to-day work for Robinson and others at La Casa goes on mostly unnoticed, which is often the case where quiet, yet meaningful efforts are being made to better human lives and outcomes. For a brief moment, that quiet has been upset by the annual recognition and the accolades expressed at the Community Relations Commission ceremony.

That may seem an inadequate gesture for what this year's award recipient contributes, but it's very much in the same spirit of how Witherspoon and Harris went about the persistent and effective mission of serving people and making a difference.

Well deserved, Julie Robinson.