Letter from the Chair

By Aimee Benavides

Dear colleagues,

In my first letter as Chair, I would like to thank all of our members for their care and consideration in the recent elections. I am very grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to serve with my fellow board members on behalf of our esteemed colleagues and dear friends. I believe I speak on behalf of the entire board when I express that we value your trust and are committed to leaving both our profession and our association stronger and more empowered than we have found it.

I have been carefully considering what it means to be a professional association. It is one thing to simply repeat what our stated purpose is; they are found in the bylaws and readily accessible. Our tagline is to empower interpreters and translators worldwide. As judiciary interpreters and translators, we have a unique niche in the legal field; yet there is more we can be and more we can do. What I want to do is dig even deeper. What do we envision for ourselves as a profession and how can our association achieve it?

For far too long, interpreters and translators have worked in a reactionary mode, dealing with policies implemented by outsiders. Strides have been made, but too many decisions are made at conference tables and in closed-door meetings where we have not been invited or simply haven’t insisted on being present. Language access coordinators discuss language access without inquiring of those who are ”in the trenches” providing said access. Language service providers are gearing up to advocate and lobby regarding employee reclassification issues all without so much as an inquiry of our professional association. We are in a unique position to share the practitioner’s point of view on language access. We can advise language service providers on best practices and the status interpreters choose to work under based on research, training, and experience. We have unique insights that can improve communication in law enforcement settings. The best practices that we publish are used to support our colleagues in their pursuit of better working conditions. Because we are a national association, we can rise above the competitive nature that may be found regionally among independent professionals to find ways to raise the profile of the entire profession. As the saying goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats’.”

My goals during this year as Chair include helping to propel NAJIT into a leadership position and increase name recognition with key organizations, agencies, governmental offices and professional associations that exert influence over us. We are well known for the high caliber of continuing education and excellent conferences. We can take all of those skills into new arenas. To take our message and adapt it to those audiences – whether they be language access coordinators or members of the Bench and Bar –  we need the help of the entire association. Instead of saying, ‘I think NAJIT should do this’ let’s change the dynamic and say, ‘I know I can help NAJIT do this’. To reach new audiences and take back the leadership role within our own profession, I issue the following challenge:

1. Identify the associations in your region that exist and when they meet. We can only be present and represent our profession if we know about these events. These associations can be Court Reporter Associations, District Attorney Associations, Defense Attorney Conferences, Language Access Coordinators, Law Enforcement Workshops, Judges’ College and so on.

2. Identify the biggest challenges in your region – and let us know what they are. If you would benefit from a position paper, help us identify the problem and help us draft the solution. NAJIT has the respect of many court administrations and when a best practice is set forth by us, it has standing. You don’t have to be part of a committee to send recommendations or to send us a draft you’re working on.

3. Ask yourself, is my profession worth promoting? Ask your colleagues, is our profession worthy of our time and effort? If your answer is yes, then one way to promote it is to support the volunteer efforts of NAJIT. Encourage all of your court colleagues to join NAJIT or to renew their membership. There are many member benefits, and if that weren’t enough – just think of how much further we can go with the support of our colleagues. Having exhibit tables or NAJIT sponsored speakers at important events allows us to have face to face interactions with decision makers and agencies that might otherwise prefer the status quo or simply try to do things their way rather than the right way. Your membership allows NAJIT to advocate for you and for our profession-for both interpreters and translators, employees and freelancers alike.

4. Let go of negativity. Change can happen and we can be the force that effectuates it.

5. Ask yourself – ‘What skills do I have that can help my profession and my colleagues?’ Even the ability to find good content to share on social media is a skill that can be used to further our profession. The ability to network and listen to other people. Do you have public speaking skills? Do you feel comfortable being on camera? Even offering to provide your tips to new interpreters for use on NAJIT’s YouTube channel can reap long-term benefits. Are you great at seeing talent in others? Don’t keep it to yourself!

Many hands make light work.

Are you up to the challenge? If you care, then you have what it takes!

Over the next few months, I look forward to sharing the results of all of the hard work the board and committee volunteers are putting into the various projects that are just beginning. My hope is that you will join us and see how rewarding it is to bring your talents and passions to a project that has the potential to help not only yourselves, your colleagues, but also those who will follow in our footsteps.

Your fellow volunteer,

Aimee Benavides
Chair, NAJIT

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