Organizers of Whitehall's Latino Night say they are pleased with its success and hope it continues to grow.

"Our Latino Night was almost twice as big this year," said Jose Morales, a Spanish-language teacher at Whitehall-Yearling High School.

Morales also teaches Heritage Class, a program he founded on his arrival at Whitehall-Yearling two years ago.

About 400 people attended Latino Night, held Oct. 11 at the school. That's up from the 250 or so who attended the event's first installment in December 2016, Morales said.

The event was held in October this year to align with Hispanic Heritage Month.

Morales said he founded Heritage Class to provide an opportunity for Latino students to serve their communities and to connect the Latino community to available resources.

"A lot of Latinos in our community don't know the kinds of resources available to them," Morales said.

As this semester's service project, the 40 students enrolled in Heritage Class -- 20 in each section -- were tasked with planning Latino Night.

Next semester, students will plan a health and safety fair, Morales said.

Thirty-two agencies participated in this year's Latino Night, including the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services, Capital University, Otterbein University and Whitehall United Methodist Church.

"The goal is to provide our Latino community with finding resources they need," Morales said, including those that provide guidance for health services and immigration policy.

But Latino Night also celebrated culture.

"We had (Latino) music and food for everyone to enjoy," said junior Ana Navarro, 16.

"We are a big community ... here to support one another and learn from each other," said Navarro, who came to Columbus when she was 2 years old.

Sophomore Amy Hernandez, 15, said she was happy with how well the event turned out.

"I hope we were able show people where to find help if they need it," Hernandez said.

Paul Smathers, principal of Whitehall-Yearling High School, said Latino Night "is a great event to welcome our Latino community to our school and embrace them as part of our community."

It also provides a chance for the school to help provide resources and connections for students and their families, Smathers said.

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