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Thomas Hatton: Bridging Two Cultures

Thomas Hatton“Working with the migrant community helped me realize there was an urgent need in the United States for bilingual people to reach out and help those in need.”

Thomas Hatton ’12 has been committed to serving the migrant community since he graduated from Transylvania. He started out as a GED instructor for migrant workers and their families, teaching high school-level classes in math, science, social studies, reading, and grammar—all in Spanish. The goal was to help migratory and seasonal farmworkers obtain the equivalent of a high school diploma, so they could find stable employment or pursue postsecondary education or training.

Now Hatton works as a regional outreach specialist for the Southeastern Kentucky Migrant Education Program, a Title 1 program that helps children and families of migrant workers succeed in school. He trains staff in six school districts and travels throughout southeastern Kentucky.

Thanks to his Latin American and Caribbean Studies minor, he brings to his job a broad understanding of the history and culture of many of the people he is working with and how their history is tied to the history of the United States. “I also feel like the Spanish program does a great job at combining language with history and culture. I learned from my professors that to truly understand literature, you have to first understand the society that produced it.”

After discovering the myriad ways he could help migrant workers in this country, Hatton decided to complete post-graduate studies in public policy rather than in Spanish. He is currently pursuing a master's degree at the Martin School of Public Policy at the University of Kentucky.

Reflecting on his experience at Transylvania, Hatton is quick to repudiate any stereotypes of college professors as self-absorbed or standoffish. “The Spanish department is staffed with some of the kindest, most insightful, and wisest people I know. The professors are all willing to go the extra mile to make sure their students succeed.”

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