The Laurel School District is leading the charge in bringing together all the students and faculty in the district as well as the community to celebrate National Heritage Month in a fabulous fashion. The energy and excitement for the month-long celebration have been felt throughout the community. Students from the pre-K up to the high school classes have united in the festivities in various artistic, educational, musical, and athletic fashion to learn more about and honor the customs, heritage, and influential Hispanic individuals. From the little ones making maracas and eating chips and salsa, to district-wide spirit dress-up days, the Hispanic culture has been celebrated in many unique and beautiful variations.
The celebration began on Sept. 15, and festivities kicked off at Laurel High School with an exciting evening of events on Sept. 20. Hosted by the Laurel High School Student Council, the theme for the celebration was “The Dream of America,” and guests were taken on a journey into the Hispanic culture with a night full of beautiful music, exquisite dances, walking and educational tours honoring Hispanic pride, and tasting authentic ethnic foods. It was truly an immersion into the Hispanic heritage and was celebrated by a packed house.
“It has been so wonderful to see the students really take pride and ownership in their heritage through all the events and activities that they have planned,” Laurel High School Student Council Sponsor Tamia Taylor said. “The students have been working so hard during the last few months, staying after school and coming up here on the weekends working to make sure everything is perfect. We are so proud of all the work that the students, their families, the community, and the schools have devoted to our ‘Culture Night’ and to their individual activities at all the schools.”
Taylor was very proud of the success of the first celebration at the high school but was quick to acknowledge that she was not the leading force in bringing the idea and the celebration together. At the end of school last year, a very poised, accomplished member of the student council approached Taylor with her concept for the celebration.
With a determination, drive, and wisdom way beyond her years, rising senior and Student Body Vice President Salina Juarez asked Taylor if the high school could join in the festivities of National Hispanic Heritage Month with a celebration that would bring everyone together to celebrate and honor the heritage and culture of the Hispanic community. Taylor loved the idea and helped Juarez put the plan into action.
“I really wanted there to be a special event for National Hispanic Heritage Month where the high school could be more involved, and it sparked the idea for this great celebration to bring everyone in the school district together to honor and pay tribute to our Hispanic culture,” Juarez said. “It has been so amazing to see how all the students, parents, the schools, and the whole community have come together and worked so hard to create this event. It has made the Hispanic community really feel included and given us a chance to be seen.”
Taylor was so impressed with Juarez’s foresight for the event and predicts an amazing future for this young lady. “Salina is really going to be a leader that is going to accomplish great things in our community and the world,” Taylor said. “She is definitely going to make a positive impact in the future.”
Juarez has loved the process of seeing the celebration develop in such an amazing way. “My favorite part of helping to plan the event has been seeing the whole idea come together,” Juarez said. “Coordinating the event might sound like a lot of fun but has been a lot of work but seeing it all come together and become a reality has made all the work well worth it.”
Laurel School District’s EL Coordinator Carlina Reeves-Garcia has played an integral part in the process of bringing the whole district together and excitedly talked about how pleased she was with the devotion of the parents and community throughout all the preparations. “To see how all the work that the parents, teachers, and community have put into making these celebrations come about has been such a beautiful thing,” Reeves-Garcia said. “They have put so much work in helping to honor the Hispanic heritage in the arts and music, incorporating the culture into all the classes—the math classes and even P.E. as they are leading them in Zumba classes, and so much more.”
For Reeves-Garcias, it has been a joy to see the Hispanic heritage being honored and celebrated in so many creative ways. “It has been so wonderful to see how the community and students have come together with such beautiful dances, poems, and songs,” she said. “It was important for this to be a truly authentic celebration to educate and celebrate the Hispanic culture. The parents have brought in authentic artifacts, helped teach the students Hispanic songs, led them in creating beautiful arts and crafts, and worked so hard to make sure that everyone has a chance to have a truly authentic Hispanic experience. They have also worked to ensure that every student in the district gets an authentic piece of Hispanic candy. There have been just so many fun ways that they are bringing the culture to everyone.”
The Culture Night at Laurel High School was a huge success and a beautiful experience in the world of Hispanic heritage. Guests were greeted at the event with colorful pinatas and decorations displaying the Hispanic culture and heritage. Juarez gave a very powerful presentation on how the Hispanic community has faced some difficult times by not only learning a new language but also the challenges that they have faced, working to fit into a new culture with different traditions.
“Our customs are a little different, and we celebrate some holidays in a different manner,” Juarez said. “We have worked to fit into the community but there has always been the fear that we would lose a lot of our heritage if it wasn’t kept alive. With this celebration of the Hispanic heritage, everyone is learning more about the Hispanic culture in a fun and interesting way.”
The Hispanic students performed original and authentic dances from the various communities of Hispanic nations around the world. All the dances were choreographed by Juarez. In true Hispanic fashion, the event ended with a very exhilarating celebratory dance as everyone was invited to join in the dancing and fun.
There was a fantastic attendance at the high school’s first celebration of Hispanic heritage, and it has set a precedence for future generations as these students have initiated an amazing legacy for the Hispanic community. It was truly a magical night as the students and guests of all ages represented their Hispanic pride. Giving the Hispanic community a voice in the community and an opportunity to celebrate their Hispanic heritage, it was a fabulous way to kick off the month of celebrations in the school district. It was an inspiring experience as diversity brought the students and community together in a time of celebration. That is a very encouraging and beautiful thing to see.
There are more celebrations planned for October, and the students would love for everyone to come to support their festivities honoring the Hispanic culture. For more information on future events, please visit the Laurel School District website here.
*All photos are courtesy of Judy Smith.