Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

María Keefe is a first-generation American born of Cuban immigrants. She is a Hispanic achievement liaison at Stevens Forest Elementary School, where she works with staff and families toward the academic success of Hispanic students. Here Keefe blogs about Stevens Forest’s participation in National Hispanic Heritage Month with fun, educational activities.

The morning announcements are about to begin, and I’m standing next to a student who is positively bouncing with excitement. “I’m nervous, well, kind of scared,” he says.

We review his lines once more. After our principal, Mr. Ernesto Díaz, completes the pledge, he introduces the student who then gets to share a fun fact for National Hispanic Heritage Month. Our World Language teachers partnered with me to help come up with the list of interesting facts about Hispanic heritage, culture and accomplishments by famous Hispanics. When the student finishes saying his fun fact, he flashes me a grin of pure pride.

Kicking off the day with a fun fact is just one of the things we are doing to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month at Stevens Forest. As a school with more than 140 Hispanic students, it’s important that we recognize the richness of our culture and share it with the community as a whole. I enjoy celebrating the dual nature of our students of Hispanic heritage–they are proud to be in the United States and also proud of their Latin American roots. Most of them are bilingual and bicultural, as I am.

During National Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the heritage, culture and accomplishments of Hispanic people in the United States. The celebration of the month begins on September 15th and ends on October 15th. This time frame was chosen because September 15th is also the day of independence from Spain for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

In addition, September 16th is the day of independence for Mexico, and September 18th is independence day for Chile. The month also spans Día de la Raza, on October 12th, a day that celebrates the new culture created in Latin America, which is a mixture of all races. The celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month dates back to an Act of Congress in 1968. It started as a week and became a month in 1988.

So back at Stevens Forest, we’re still celebrating. Our students will have grade level specific activities to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month. Our amazing paraeducator Renee Burnstein created a fabulous display in our media center.  She included all sorts of wonderful reading materials: fiction and nonfiction books, bilingual books, books about Latin American countries and culture, and more. Our students have been enthusiastically checking out these books.

Later in the month, we will celebrate in one of my favorite ways: by sharing traditional dishes. Our school staff will be treated to a special luncheon by Hispanic parents to celebrate Hispanic heritage. The parents donate traditional dishes and serve the staff. It’s definitely a favorite day for everyone, and I love seeing the pride in the families’ faces as they share their favorite recipes.

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month. ¡Muchas gracias!