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Young translators at CU’s Sheridan Health Services show volunteering is a family affair

11-year old Lydia Harpin and 7-year old Hannah Harpin help translate for patients their dad Scott is vaccinating at CU's Family Health Services clinic in Sheridan, Colorado..png
Posted at 7:14 PM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 21:14:32-04

SHERIDAN, Colo. — Before you can get a COVID-19 shot at CU’s Sheridan Health Services, there is some paperwork you need to fill out and some questions that need to be answered.

You just may not expect the person translating those questions into Spanish to be an elementary school student.

“¿Tiene alguna otra alergia a la comida o algo?” asks 11-year-old Lydia Harpin.

Lydia and her 7-year-old sister, Hanna, have spent some of their summer vacation translating at the clinic alongside their dad while he volunteers his time providing the vaccine to patients.

“Is it your first or second shot?” Scott Harpin asks.

“¿Es tu primera o segunda dosis?” his oldest daughter asks again.

“They're fluent Spanish speakers,” Harpin says of his girls, both of whom attend the Denver Language School. “They have been 100% Spanish language-immersed since kindergarten.”

The girls say some people seem shocked to see not only young volunteers, but ones that speak Spanish as well as they do.

“One time we were at the front desk and Lydia talked to them in Spanish,” remembers Hannah. “We heard one of the kids whisper 'Wow, she's better than me.'”

Scott Harpin is an associate professor at the University of Colorado College of Nursing, which operates CU’s Family Health Services Clinic in Sheridan. Clinic director Megan Champion said volunteers like the Harpins are helping the clinic accomplish its mission of providing equitable distribution of the COVID vaccine.

“The weekend vaccination clinics really did an excellent job of targeting people who were falling through the cracks because maybe they didn't have reliable internet or English was their second language, so it was more difficult to navigate,” Champion said. “Coming to get a vaccine can be scary, so seeing kids and families helps make it a warmer environment.”

For Scott Harpin, volunteering with his girls means they get to see what he does on a day-to-day basis, while seeing how good it feels to help others.

“It was really important for me to have them see what I do clinically. That was really a special thing,” he said.

“That felt really good because I was helping people,” Hannah said. Her sister added, “It’s really interesting and fun. I like helping people all the time.”