KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A program at Pellissippi State Community College is building community on campus through conversation. Spanish-Language Conversation Tables is bringing cultures together and encouraging inclusivity.

On Tuesday night, students, alumni, and community members shared their testimonies as part of the college’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.

The Conversation Tables project is the brainchild of instructor Dr. Raul Rivero. He leads the group in a relaxed setting giving everyone an opportunity to practice and converse in Spanish. He says it’s a chance for native and non-native Spanish speakers to connect with one another.

Dr. Rivero believes people in the community are craving more opportunities to actively speak the language and that they recognize the benefits of learning Spanish.

“Some students, when they come to Pellissippi, they are coming from Central America speaking English because they learn it here and their dialect and sometimes it is simply their ethnic dialect. Spanish is big and they say ‘oh it’s completely embarrassing for me and if I finish my degree and I transfer to the University of Tennessee I’m not going to be able to use that Indigenous dialect, but I could use Spanish… Can I join Conversation Table?'” said Rivero.

You can be a part of the conversation every Thursday at 2:30 p.m. The weekly gatherings moved online during the pandemic. Dr. Rivero can be reached at 865-694-6400 to share the link to future Conversation Tables webinars. He says you don’t have to be a student to participate. All ages are welcome.