South-Western Subject Matter: District celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Matthew Saul McKenzie
South-Western City Schools

Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the United States while also commemorating their culture and heritage.

Originally signed into law as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson to celebrate the anniversary of the five Hispanic countries that had declared their independence Sept. 15, 1821, the celebration was extended to an entire month, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan.

Matthew Saul McKenzie

The South-Western City Schools is home to a large number of diverse families, including many from Latin America. Currently, 4,046 Hispanic/Latino students are enrolled in our school district. That makes up more than 17% of our total student population, compared to 6.2% for the state.

Spanish is the primary home language for 3,296 of those students, representing more than 14% of our total student population. 

SWCS works to increase awareness of Hispanic culture and contributions throughout the district during Hispanic Heritage Month. Achievements, quotes and interesting facts about famous Hispanic Americans and Hispanic culture are shared with students and, at times, by students throughout the schools and during morning announcements.

Inside the classroom, all students participate in activities ranging from reading folktales and fables from Spanish speaking countries, writing biographies on selected Hispanic individuals and working together to creating bilingual poems to celebrate Hispanic heritage. These works are displayed in the hallways throughout the schools in an effort to recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans during this month of celebration.  

As with all of our students, SWCS strives to lead the way among Ohio school districts to celebrate our Hispanic students and their families by implementing forward-thinking practices to embrace our diversity and to provide services for our families.

To improve communication with all our families, multilingual assistants, who speak Spanish, Somali and Hakha Chin, as well as English, have been hired to provide language services. These district-employed interpreters and translators assist in bridging the language barriers among parents, students, schools and the SWCS community. In addition, many of our schools hold multicultural nights to celebrate their diversity by sharing the cultures, traditions, clothing, food and music of their families.  

A wide variety of programs has been established to promote the culture and skills of our Hispanic students. Through partnerships with the Ohio State University, Columbus State Community College and New Mexico Community College, students have the opportunity to participate in Heritage Spanish, bilingual medical interpreting and bilingual customer-service courses. These programs provide college credits for our Hispanic students and provide valuable opportunities to obtain employment and success after graduation. 

Hispanic Heritage Month allows all SWCS students to increase their awareness of, celebrate the achievements of and learn more about the importance of the Hispanic culture in our community. We are committed to all our community, including our Hispanic families and students, and we will continue to work to provide a better education and future for them and for all students in our district.

Matthew Saúl McKenzie is cultural-diversity coordinator at South-Western City Schools.

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