Patricia Robledo has been hired as Knox County Schools’ first Latino community outreach specialist, a role in which she is working to increase engagement and improve communication with Spanish-speaking families and others who are not fluent in English.
Approximately eight percent of the district’s more than 57,000 students speak Spanish, and 5.1 percent are designated as English learners. Robledo’s work is focused on initiatives to ensure those families and others have access to information they need about the district and its schools.
Robledo’s own life journey illustrates the challenges and opportunities for Spanish-speaking families and immigrants. When she moved to Knoxville with her family in 1981, she initially had limited English proficiency but began volunteering at the World’s Fair in 1982 as part of a team that welcomed visitors who spoke other languages.
She eventually attended the University of Tennessee, then finished a double-major in biology and medical technology at Lindenwood University in St. Louis, before moving to New Hampshire where her two children were born.
In 1995, she moved back to Tennessee with her family, and eventually received a call from Levi’s, which was looking for an interpreter to assist in communicating with Spanish-speaking employees.
That experience sparked an entrepreneurial drive, and she launched Robledo Translations, a company that went on to work with a variety of private-sector firms as well as the federal government. She also became a founding member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee.
Mayor Madeline Rogero recruited and hired Robledo as business and development liaison for the city, a job she held through Rogero’s two terms and for Mayor Indya Kincannon.
Robledo calls that appointment “an amazing opportunity and a great, great honor.”
At Knox County Schools, Robledo is working on a Spanish-language video library for families; a user-friendly translation tool for the KCS website; improvements to the district’s family messaging system; and focus groups to assess the district’s communication strategies.
“I may not know everything, but I’ll ask a lot of questions and at the end I’ll hopefully act as a bridge.”
Information provided by Knox County Schools