June 3, 2011 | The Tennessean | Original Article

Census: Hispanic population triples

When Hector Zapian moved to Dickson in 1995, he was one of only a few hundred Hispanics in Dickson County.

Over the last 15 years, that number has increased to more than 1,500.

“That’s a lot of (Hispanic) people living in Dickson because it used to be none, or very little,” Zapian said.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Dickson County ranks sixth out of 95 counties in Tennessee in percentage of Hispanic population growth.

Since 2000, the population of Hispanics in Dickson County has more than tripled—from 484 to 1,573.

Zapian, who owns Camino Real Mexican Restaurant, has seen the growth first hand.

“Walmart started to put out the Mexican groceries, their inventory is bigger…they used to have nothing, but now they have a lot,” Zapian said.

The biggest draw to the area for Hispanics is the economy and opportunity to work, according to Zapian.

“Most people move in because they are looking for jobs,” Zapian said. “It’s a nice place to live. I’ve lived here for 16 years and I’m happy.”

School system 'rising to occasion'

Val Duran, a Mexican-American born in California, moved to Dickson County in 2004 after serving in the army. In 2007, he was hired as a parent-teacher Hispanic liaison for the Dickson County school system.

Originally, the position was just translating, but it’s expanded since then.

“We revamped it and took it to a whole new level. Now it’s a one-stop shop. Anything you can imagine, we’ll try to help out the Hispanic families,” Duran said.

Part of Duran’s job is to deliver paperwork to Spanish-speaking parents at their workplaces.

“It’s a win-win for everybody. We get our paperwork required by the state… and the parents like it because they don’t have to take a half-day,” Duran said.
Duran works with students, parents and teachers at all 14 schools in Dickson County.

“The school system itself is proactive in giving No. 1 customer service to all the parents. They know that there’s been a rise (in Hispanic families) and instead of ignoring it, they rise to the occasion,” Duran said.

The Dickson County English Language Learners program requires non-English speaking students to take one hour of English per day.

“I’m noticing that everything is really good compared to other cities that are trying to catch up,” Duran said. “Other counties have actually looked at our program and started to emulate and implement our program.”

Once Hispanic families move to Dickson County, word spreads about the accommodating features, according to Duran.

“It’s basically all word of mouth. They are getting the word that Dickson County is a great place,” Duran said.