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Karina Kline-Gabel ('92)

Director of AMISTAD

Photo: Karina Kline-Gabel

Growing up in Harrisonburg as the child of an U.S.-born father and Colombian mother, Karina was embued with confidence — her bicultural acumen earned her the affectionate moniker of "a walking dictionary." In adulthood, however, she observed prejudice against the area's growing Latino population and watched immigrants "trying to bury" their heritage. Karina decided to use her role as a JMU Spanish professor to help bilingual, bicultural children find the confidence she had taken for granted as a child. Putting her ingenuity to work, Karina applied for and received a grant that allowed her to dovetail two of her important goals: helping Latino children embrace their culture and helping JMU students interact with local residents. Her program, AMISTAD, which means "friendship," brings JMU and middle-school students together for activities that build appreciation for cultural diversity and foster community spirit. As the program continues to expand, AMISTAD is living up to its motto, "Building bridges through friendship;" and Karina is helping new generations take pride in the treasure of a diverse cultural heritage.

"All people want is to feel that they belong — I want to give them that sense of community."