The Effect of Hispanic Heritage Month

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Gabby Cueto, a sophomore, stands in front of the Hispanic Heritage Month banner in the Spanish hallway. She is African American as well as Cuban. (Photo Courtesy Daniela Plata)

Hispanic Heritage Month spans from September 15 to October 15 and is a month full of celebrations and recognition for Hispanics living in the United States, but do the Hispanic students of Leesville feel adequately recognized?

The celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month is nationwide and recognizes the history, contributions, and influence of Hispanic individuals. It is more prevalent in areas with more of a Hispanic population, but here at Leesville, 6.6% of the students identify as Hispanic. 

Mario Rodriguez Kelecic, a sophomore, is one of such students: “ I was born in Venezuela, but I lived there like two months, then I moved to Spain, and then I was there like 9 years, then I was one year in Venezuela, and then I was again in Spain, and then I was here.” 

Kelecic started at Leesville Middle School towards the end of his 8th-grade year and has been learning English, as well as the learning he does in class.

Students who join the Leesville community from other countries are not brand new to the country. Some have only lived here for a couple of years, and some have lived here for longer than that. Students like Maria Cardenas, junior, said, “I was born in Venezuela, and I moved here around 5 years ago.” 

Maria was born in a country where Spanish was the primary language, but she knows English as well as Spanish. “Every time I talk to someone in English they notice that I have like a little accent and they ask like ‘Oh where are you from?’ and I let them know where I’m from so it’s cool to explain to them like that history,” said Cardenas.

Not all Hispanic and Latino students originated from other countries like Mario and Maria. Many grew up here in North Carolina like Genesis Mejia, a sophomore: “ My mom’s side is from Puerto Rico and El Salvadore, and my grandma moved here when she was 15, and my dad’s side is from Mexico.” 

Even though Hispanic Students at Leesville come from different backgrounds students feel that our school does not represent Hispanic Heritage Month as it should. “I haven’t seen much of Hispanic Heritage Month from my teachers, I saw posters in the Spanish hallway, but other than that, not much,” said Cardenas.

Leesville’s Hispanic population is small compared to the number of students that attend the school, therefore our school as a whole does not celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month “They should put Spanish food in the cafeteria, no more of that pizza,” said Kelecic. 

Many students have ideas and ways that our school could improve its representation of Hispanic students, and many choose to enact these ideals. “I am the founder and president of the international students club, which represents the Hispanic community and other communities too,” said Cardenas.

Even with these efforts, many of the students feel that their culture is not represented in the school. Many other schools represent the many cultures and populations that attend their schools. “I have friends at other schools that have events for Heritage Months,” said Edgar Rubio, a sophomore. 

The issues for Hispanic students span far further than just events during Hispanic Heritage Month, and it’s far worse for students whose first language isn’t English. “Let me use my translator on the test, like the states,” said Kelecic. Students who come from other countries often have a hard time understanding what teachers are talking about, and what they are supposed to be doing. This is not an issue for only Spanish-speaking students, it is an issue for all students who speak another language as their first language.

Even with the year-round struggles as a Hispanic student, the Hispanic students of Leesville want to be recognized during Hispanic Heritage Month. The efforts of the school during Hispanic Heritage Month make the students of Leesville feel like they are not recognized. But even outside of Hispanic Heritage Month, Hispanic students are not supported the way they should be at Leesville.

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