Long-time leader of UC outreach in Spanish retires in June
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), based at UC Riverside. Grajales-Hall retires June 30.
As manager of UC ANR News and Information Outreach in Spanish (NOS), Grajales-Hall has worked with California's Spanish-language news media, produced radio and video programs, and adapted newsletters, curricula, scripts, brochures and press releases to inform the community on obesity and diabetes prevention, ecologically sound pest management, farmworker safety, emergency preparedness and youth development.
When Grajales-Hall was a teenager studying English in her native Bogotá, Colombia, she set her sights on working at the United Nations. She asked her parents for their permission to travel to the United States for intensive language instruction, never believing they would allow their shy daughter to venture so far from home. But permission was granted.
While studying languages at California State University, San Bernardino, she was hired to do clerical work at a Spanish language radio station in Redlands. The staff soon recognized the pleasant tonal quality of her voice.
“I started doing commercials. Then they asked me to do public affairs,” she said. “I began working on news. That's how it all started.”
A radio station colleague went to work for UC Cooperative Extension, and five months later recruited Grajales-Hall to be his part-time assistant. Two years later she came on full time and six years after that, Grajales-Hall was named the manager.
“I wanted to work for the UN, and ended up with the UC,” Grajales-Hall said. “One letter changed my life. And it couldn't have been any better.”
When Grajales-Hall came to the university in 1982, the Latino population in California was about 5 million. Today, the population has more than tripled.
“I am so impressed that 35 years ago, the University of California and Cooperative Extension had the foresight to establish an outreach service to the Spanish-speaking population,” Grajales-Hall said. “I've had the privilege to work with dozens of dedicated, brilliant UC academics and educators, and to assist them with their outreach efforts. I've learned so much from them.”
The program began with a monthly radio feed to 20 Spanish-language radio stations. As technology advanced continuously over the years, NOS, under Grajales-Hall's leadership, kept up with the times.
Reel-to-reel tapes gave way to cassettes, and then CDs. Now radio spots will be shared in MP3 format. The media needs also changed. In the early 1980s, radio stations welcomed 30 minutes of programming from UC. But in today's world of shortened attention spans, the team made adjustments.
“We still do radio. It's a viable way to get information out to the Latino community. But today we are lucky to get one minute of air time,” Grajales-Hall said. “Some stations only want 30-second spots.”
More information is shared via the program's website, and feeds on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Through the years, Grajales-Hall and her staff made sure timely and practical information from the UC Cooperative Extension reached Spanish-speaking Californians.
“Coming from a different country, as an immigrant, I see the great value in the information and education we can provide to other immigrants in California,” Grajales-Hall said. “I understood their issues and concerns, their difficulty in navigating the system. To be able to make a difference, whether large or small, was always exciting.”
In retirement, Grajales-Hall envisions change, but will continue to serve her community.
“I came across a word doing translation research: ecdysis. That's when an insect sheds its skin and transforms. It's a time of great promise, of renewal, of transformation, and of vulnerability. That's how I feel about retirement,” Grajales-Hall said. “When you retire, you find yourself without the constraints of time and space. I'm looking forward to the time and space to redefine my life.”
In addition to traditional retirement pursuits of travel and relaxation, Grajales-Hall has esoteric endeavors on her to-do list.
“I want to be mindful. I want to see the sunrises and sunsets. I want to walk more on the beach,” she said. “I want to learn Italian, volunteer, scrapbook, spend time with family and friends and teach ESL (English as a second language). I want to serve, I want to give back.”