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Behind Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby's Immigrant Grooms Get an Education

The Backside Learning Center offers English tutoring, computer lessons, citizenship and GED classes, tax preparation services, and legal advice.


A few hundred yards south of Churchill Downs' famed twin spires, outside the pomp of the winner's circle and completely removed from the view of Millionaire's Row, sits a squat six-room office with faded green betting windows facing the track. To the uninitiated, it looks like another administration building for horse racing's most famous venue. But to those in the know, it's "a second home," "an opportunity," and a place "full of love."

Officially, it's the Backside Learning Center, "the nation’s only comprehensive educational facility at a racetrack," which for eight years has been operated as a nonprofit by the Kentucky Derby Museum. Executive director Jennifer Hoert says its aim is to "provide education, life skills, and community to backside workers," who care for, work out and help train horses and live in dorms or tack rooms attached to the barns. Because immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala comprise the majority of the worker population, that means offering English tutoring, computer lessons, and citizenship classes. On a deeper level, it means helping transform an often overlooked and overworked group of individuals into a community.

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Found in Translation

When it comes to reading, there's a lopsided exchange between the English-speaking world and everyone else. A full 50 percent of all books in translation are translated from English, with only 3 percent translated into English. Words Without Borders, a monthly online magazine of translated international..

When it comes to reading, there's a lopsided exchange between the English-speaking world and everyone else. A full 50 percent of all books in translation are translated from English, with only 3 percent translated into English. Words Without Borders, a monthly online magazine of translated international literature, aims to rectify that. Founded by Alane Salierno Mason, WWB has published more than 1,000 translated works- including short stories, excerpts, graphic novels, and poems-from 106 countries, in 79 language. By exposing readers to the art and the perspectives of the unknown, Mason hopes to allow for more international communication. WWB's first issue, titled "Literature of the Axis of Evil," was a fitting start: The Axis of Evil was the kind of "broad-brush labeling that is symptomatic of what [brought this whole project] about," says Mason.

Congolese writer Alain Mabanckou's African PsychoTranslated by Christine Schwartz Hartley for WWB in 2005Published by Soft Skull Press in 2007

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