RICHMOND, Va. -- Language has been Richmond native and first-generation college graduate Tia Javier's passion since middle school. Tia Javier has always been a helper.
“I grew up disenfranchised here in Richmond," Javier said. "I understand sometimes there are gaps that need to be filled and I'm here to fill one of those gaps.”
The wife and mother taught herself Spanish when she was a teenager.
“I like people. I like helping people. I’m very passionate about that," she said. "I love language. This is something that honestly, I would not even need to be paid for.”
The Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote about Javier, then just a high school student, and how she spent her spare time teaching English to the Spanish-speaking community.
"I did it for free. I would go on Saturdays to Broad Rock Library and set up, and I made fliers. I went around to places that I knew had big Hispanic populations, and I posted my fliers," she said.“It’s not just language, it’s not just knowing the two languages, but it’s understanding the two languages—and how they work and how it works with culture.”
Now, she's fluent in four languages and runs a speech-based business Bilinguatherapy, on Forst Hill Avenue, in South Richmond. But that was not her original life plan.
Javier was the first person in her family to graduate from college. She also earned a Masters's degree in Spanish while teaching at Virginia Union University.
In her mind, education was a ticket to success and her way to make an impact. But it came with a high cost.
"I was in so much student loan debt, so after 11 years of being in school, I owed $180,000," she said.
Her goal was to get a Ph.D. and continue teaching at the college level. But, life sent her on another route.
"When my daughter was three years old and I could not understand anything that she was saying," Javier said."At home, we speak Spanish and I was looking for a Spanish-speaking speech therapist and I could not find one."
Recognizing the need, she decided to step up and fill another gap.
“I just decided to go and get a Master's degree in speech therapy," she said.
She opened her private practice in the fall of 2020 and began working as a speech pathologist.
In her first full year, she's recorded nearly 3,000 appointments and is seeing about 100 clients a week. About 90% of her clients speak Spanish.
“Business is booming," she said. "It’s the first and only speech therapy clinic in Southside Richmond, even in Richmond itself that focuses on the Spanish-speaking population and other underserved populations, linguistically diverse populations, African American vernacular as well.”
Her vision? To grow Bilinguatherapy.
“It’s very, very hard to find other Spanish-speaking therapists," she said. "What I’m afraid is that my business is going to continue to grow and I’m not going to be able to really help this population because we won’t have enough people.”
She already has a plan to open a second location, build and train a team, and make a bigger impact in the community.
“I'm going to teach them Spanish so that they can also work in this population, kind of duplicate myself to help more people," she said.
Watch Candace Burns' "Our RVA" reports Wednesdays on CBS 6 News at 4 and 6 p.m. If you know someone Candace should feature, email her at Candace.Burns@wtvr.com.
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