Hispanic Heritage Night Celebrated
Kenilworth Public Schools
Students love a good party, so it’s no surprise that Kenilworth Public Schools’ recent fiesta was hugely popular. The October 14th celebration also included the community – and a vibrant cultural theme.
The district’s Hispanic Heritage Night helped represent the background of many Kenilworth students. Hispanic students make up 35 percent of the district’s enrollment.
“We have students from Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador, and many moreHispanic countries and territories around the world,” said David Brearley Middle-High School Principal, Jeremy Davies. “Events such as Hispanic Heritage Night highlight our commitment to make sure all students feel a sense of belonging.”
Students served as “ambassadors” at the event, sharing information and heirlooms from their families’ countries of origin. The event was partly sponsored by the New Jersey Education Association’s Pride Program, which seeks to build community involvement in public schools.
Two of Brearley’s World Language teachers, Kayla Khaled and Alejandro Mejia, spearheaded the night’s activities. They coordinated student participation and arranged for entertainment and empanadas–both of which were big hits.A Mariachi band performed, and a Zumba instructor gave lessons. And those empanadas? They went rápido! Local restaurants donated more than 500 empanadas, which were gone within 30 minutes. Participating restaurants, LaCasa del Pan in Union, Chilean Bakery in Roselle Park, and Antojitos Don Chucho of Elizabeth Port, contributed empanadas of various flavors, offering a taste of diverse regional cuisine.
“Students and community members were thrilled and appreciative that our school was able to provide an event that encouraged and inspired their interests in Hispanic culture, while also creating a cooperative approach to a collective positive school environment,” Khaled said.
For extra credit, Hispanic Heritage Night also was educational. “This year we’ve implemented an instructional curriculum in World Language classes that provides students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in both Hispanic culture and Spanish language,” Mejia said. “The event created an authentic experience that complemented and supported our instructional goals.” Cultural events such as Hispanic Heritage Night also help advance one of Kenilworth’s 2021-22 district goals, namelyincreasing the focus on nurturing diversity and equity and inclusion.
Judging by the feedback from the recent event, Kenilworth should expect a crowd at upcoming celebrations such as Black History Night in February and a Women’s History Night in March. One attendee said, “I am proud that I was afforded this opportunity” to participate in Hispanic HeritageNight. Another appreciated how “the beauty of Hispanic heritage was highlighted”. And the words of one student might have been the most poignant: “Our school felt different. We felt united.”