Café con Amigos de Extensión Teaches Language Skills to Help Staff Serve Latinx in Iowa

October 16, 2020, 9:46 am | Norma Dorado-Robles, Valyn Bodensteiner

AMES, Iowa - According to the US Census Bureau, the Latinx population made up 24.4% of the total U.S. population in 2014 and is projected to increase to 33.5% by the year 2060. The Latinx population in Iowa is part of this growth and this continued change in demographics remains top of mind for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach staff, who continue to facilitate and develop educational programs to meet the needs of all communities in the state.  

Café con Amigos de Extensión.“When you are trying to connect with newcomers, new residents of Iowa, it helps to speak the language they are comfortable with,” said Norma Dorado-Robles, an ISU Extension and Outreach 4-H youth program specialist.

Seeing an opportunity to help her coworkers improve their Spanish speaking skills, Dorado-Robles, a native Spanish speaker, created a unique professional development opportunity this fall, called Café con Amigos de Extensión.

Café con Amigos de Extensión is a platform for interested ISU Extension and Outreach staff to practice their Spanish skills and learn how to better use them in the workplace when delivering 4-H youth development programming.

“The idea for this initiative came from the work we actively continue to do in our 4-H Refugee, Immigrant and Race/Ethnicity Champions group, to support the Latinx communities in the state,” said Dorado-Robles.

The purpose of the series is to create conversations in an informal setting and showcase how to better serve Spanish speaking youth, families and volunteers. Participants meet every other Friday to practice their Spanish skills by learning 4-H and ISU Extension and Outreach terminology to better serve the Hispanic/Latinx communities.  

In group settings, Dorado-Robles leads others in Spanish conversations discussing topics of interest that support this community in Iowa. The series is divided into seven sessions covering a broad range of themes that continue supporting ISU Extension and Outreach staff in their engagement work with all Iowans.   

“You have to start with the basics – ‘Hi, my name is,’ ‘How are you’ and so on – to first make a connection,” Dorado-Robles said.

After extension staff make that connection, then they can explain to new Iowans that 4-H helps young people learn how to live healthily, be leaders, become engaged in their communities, and use science and technology to make good decisions for their future and their communities’ future.

“I have really enjoyed the opportunity to brush-up the Spanish-speaking skills I learned in high school,” said participant Jen Hargrove, 4-H youth program specialist. “It has helped to introduce resources available to strengthen my speaking as well as increase my confidence to approach Spanish-speaking audiences in my service area. I hope this can continue as a bi-weekly opportunity to practice essential phrases in my work.”

The ultimate goal of the series is to support staff in developing authentic, trusting and sustainable partnerships within communities and organizations supportive of the Latinx community in the state. All ISU Extension and Outreach employees are welcome to attend.

For more information about Café con Amigos de Extensión, contact Norma Dorado-Robles at

4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization. Iowa 4-H Youth Development programs are headquartered at Iowa State and available through ISU Extension and Outreach offices in all Iowa counties.


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