Upper School Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

  • Voices
Upper School Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
María Rodriguez

Through advisory lessons, classroom activities, food and music, Ravens learned about and celebrated the influence and impact of Hispanic and Latinx cultures in the United States.

Upper School Spanish teacher María Rodriguez shares a recap of the many ways the division and World Language classes celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month.

National Hispanic Heritage Month takes place Sept. 15-Oct. 15 every year as a time to recognize and celebrate the many contributions, diverse cultures and extensive histories of Latinos and Hispanics in the United States. (Even though “Hispanic” and “Latino” are often used interchangeably, they actually mean two different things. “Hispanic” refers to people who speak Spanish and/or are descended from Spanish-speaking populations, while “Latino” refers to people who are from or descended from people from Latin America. In recent years, the term “Latinx” has emerged as a gender-neutral, pan-ethic term.) Ravens across campus marked the month in myriad ways.

In the Upper School, Ravens learned about and celebrated the influence and impact of Hispanic and Latinx cultures in the United States through advisory lessons, classroom activities, food and music.

A grid of photos showing Hispanic Heritage Month through classroom and cultural activities

Clockwise from top left: Upper School Spanish teacher María Rodriguez works with her class; Honors Spanish II students Mike Mellott ’26 and Cole Welborn ’26 go over course material; faculty, staff and students sample food from Gonza Tacos Y Tequila as part of the division’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Division-Wide Activities

All Upper School students participated in a buddy advisory lesson, which was created by history and social studies teacher Matt Thomas, on the 1968 East Los Angeles Student Walkouts. These walkouts were led by Mexican-American students and were an integral part of the larger Chicano Movement of the time. During a community time meeting, Sara Corrales ’23 of the Upper School Hispanic/Latinx Affinity Group introduced the lesson and showed a 10-minute documentary that provided historical context for the student walkouts. The following day in advisory, students delved into and discussed some of the student demands presented to the L.A. County School Board. In the conversations that my advisory group had with Stevi Vaughn and Melanie Spransy’s advisory group, students engaged in meaningful conversations around this particular event as well as the past and current lived experiences of Mexican Americans and those of Latinx heritage. 

The Hispanic/Latinx Affinity group, with the help of Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Paul Slack, also hosted a food truck Gonza Tacos y Tequila during lunch on Oct. 6. In addition to simply enjoying the food from this food truck, students were encouraged to try a variety of food from different Hispanic/Latinx cultures, including empanadas, enchiladas, ceviche, tostados, arepas, elotes or something else they had not have before. 

Another fun thing the Hispanic/Latinx Affinity group and Student Diversity Advisory Council did was create a music playlist, using student suggestions, that celebrates the contributions of Hispanic/Latinx musicians. The music was played for students to enjoy during lunch at the Olander Center. Sara said having students contribute to the playlist made a huge impact, as “students are able to recognize music they are familiar with.” Students danced to “Conga” by Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine, among others. 

Classroom Activities

Many activities took place in our World Language classrooms to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month as well. 

Stevi Vaughn, Middle and Upper School Spanish teacher, created an activity with maps that demonstrate the changes in borders that took place in the United States 1780-2020. The maps explain the high presence of Spanish speakers in many states to the east and south that are currently part of the United States but did not always used to be. Vaughn said she wanted to highlight that “Hispanic heritage has been present in the territory of what is now considered the United States since before English speakers arrived, and therefore, remains an essential part of American culture.” She also shared a quote by contemporary activist-artist Melanie Cervantes: “We did not cross the border, the border crossed us” — a reflection of experiences of Americans including actress Eva Longoria, whose family has lived in Texas for nine generations. 

Upper School Spanish teacher María Doyle’s lessons focused on the 2020 census map, specifically on how in North Carolina the number of Hispanic immigrants moving to the state grew more than 100% in 10 years. Her Honors Spanish II class discussed reasons for such rapid growth in such a short time. Several of the students highlighted the current immigration situation farther south, particularly Texas, exploring why immigrants travel and reside in either the warmer Southern states in which agriculture is very important, and why they go to the northeast, where there are big cities with more diverse job opportunities. 

My Honors Spanish IV classes learned about the Immigrant Archive Project, an organization that has as its mission to archive and share the stories of immigrants in the United States in order to help us understand the modern immigrant experience and its vital contributions to American society. Students explored the archive’s website and listened to stories from a variety of different individuals, ranging from farm workers to priests to artists. This year, the stories collected by the Immigrant Archive Project will be housed in the Library of Congress, ensuring the preservation and accessibility of the stories collected. 

Learn more about National Hispanic Heritage Month on the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

At top, Spanish II students Jack Oates ’26, Yatin Gadicharla ’24, Sam Feldman ’24 and Donnie Williams ’24 complete the map activities developed by Spanish teacher Stevi Vaughn; at bottom left, an image of the borders in North America in 1780; at bottom right, a map showing percentages of Spanish-speaking U.S. residents by state in the 2020 census. Review the full map project here.

Students working on a project, with the maps displayed underneath