South Orangetown Central School District

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, World Language teacher Claudia Arietta invited native speakers in her Spanish V classes to present on their families’ countries of origin this week.

“The students have been so proud to educate their classmates about the rich cultural and political histories of Argentina, Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Guatemala,” noted Arietta. “Much of the media coverage of some of these areas tends to be negative and narrow in scope. Our students have family in these countries and return to visit; their perspectives and personal experiences give us a much broader context and understanding. This is important because we often tend to separate ourselves and stick with communities that we are familiar with. Activities such as these in a World Language classroom, bridge the gap and show us that there is much more that connects us than separates us. We are all citizens of the world. We all love our families, yearn for safety, take pride in our heritage, enjoy special holidays, savor different foods and appreciate the natural wonders surrounding us.”

Students were eager to present.

“This was my first time ever talking openly about my birth country. I really wanted to make it known to my classmates that El Salvador has a lot to offer. When I’m having a conversation with someone new and they ask me where I’m from, they always respond with, ‘Where is that?’ After multiple encounters with new people, I realized that the same thing kept happening over and over again. I’ve always been open to informing people about El Salvador, but I’ve never done it to a whole class. It felt great, to be honest,” explained Dayana M. “I included a picture of myself when I was 4 years old and participated in an Independence Day parade. That was a very proud moment for my family and me. I’m very proud to be Salvadoran and love my country despite its bad reputation with gangs and safety. Our culture is beautiful, energetic, and authentic. The current president is working hard to shift this country in the right direction and it feels great to finally be recognized.”

Describing Argentina’s natural beauty was important to Diego G. “I tried to include and speak about the natural landscape as much as possible because of how incredible it is, by talking about places such as the Glaciar Perito Moreno, Peninsula Valdes, Bariloche, and Cataratas del Iguazú. Patagonia is a truly beautiful place, and I wanted my classmates to share my love for the landscape…Learning about the world, specifically different cultures, is key to understanding the world and its people. Different cultures are what makes the world beautiful. I wanted to play my part by showing where my family came from, hopefully teach someone something new about a place they don’t know much about.”

Assistant Principal Melissa Luciano stopped in to observe students’ presentations. “This project encompasses all the characteristics of our school charter: respect, inspire, support and empower. As we work to promote a healthy and safe school community, we want our students to build relationships by learning more about one another, to be enthusiastic about learning new ideas, to value each other’s voices and to listen with an open mind. As I watched the presentations, I could feel the passion and love our native speakers have for their heritage. Opportunities like this allow our students to appreciate and value one another and it helps strengthen our school community.”

TZHS Spanish V student presenting on El Salvador