Environmental science students at Bohannon Middle School observed Hispanic Heritage Month the week of Sept. 18 by preparing and sampling Mexican salsa made with tomatoes and peppers picked from the school garden they manage.
The day after the salsa party, the learning continued with a video about salsa and its origins and a discussion about the expression of culture through variations in salsa ingredients.
Celebration plans elsewhere included a Latine Heritage Assembly and Latin dance and music at East Bay Arts High School, and parents at Arroyo High School kicked off the month on Sept. 14 with a meeting to launch a new Padres Unidos group at the initiative of Principal Angela Webster.
In one way or another, every month is Hispanic Heritage Month in the San Lorenzo Unified School District, although Latin American history and culture will continue to receive special recognition through the annual observance that officially ends on Oct. 15.
Sixty percent of students identify as Latino, and 39% speak Spanish at home. More Latino students and families are moving into SLZUSD all the time, not only from Mexico but also from such Central American nations as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Among the 2,539 students in the district’s program for English language learners, 75% are Spanish-speakers, and 58% of the 216 immigrant students in the Newcomers program are from Latin American countries.
This segment of the district’s richly diverse population is appreciated and supported in numerous ways, including family organizations such as the districtwide Latino Family Advisory Council; student clubs like those at Arroyo and San Lorenzo high school; and Spanish-English dual-language immersion starting with transitional kindergarten, as well as comprehensive translation services, adult school ESL classes, preschools and more.
Also, Spanish-speakers have been prominent among the Promotoras de Salud program, which over the past two years has trained 36 parents or guardians to provide health and promotion in their own communities.
At Edendale Middle School, a newly organized monthly Coffee Club (Club de Cafe) consciously serves Spanish- and English-speaking families, said School-Community Liaison Cynthia Cajina.
At a meeting on Sept. 13, one mom who had been a professor in Mexico suggested the group could organize reading time with Spanish-speaking children who are below grade level in their native language. Cajina said topics of interest to newcomer families can also range from how to get a doctor’s appointment to the steps needed to buy a car. The group's next meeting is Oct. 12 in the Arroyo High library.
Similarly, participants in Padres Unidos at Arroyo High are eager to support Spanish-speaking families and engage with Latino students.
Said Spanish teacher Hilda Gonzales, who is working with the new parents’ group and is also co-advisor for students in Latinos Unidos, “I really believe in this. It benefits the parents because it gives them a sense of belonging and an opportunity to be involved. And it helps and encourages our students.”