Celebrating the end of Hispanic Heritage Month



An image of Frida Kahlo can be found outside of Leslie Thornton’s Spanish class. Students were assigned the task of creating multicolored paper flowers, a popular Mexican practice.

Samuel Galindo (12) serenades the crowd while playing a tune on his guitar. Celebrating the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, various cultural performances were carried out in the courtyard during the lunches. (HANNIA ANTUNEZ//THE SCROLL)
) From left to right, Yanela Medina (10), Karla Davila and Pamela Murillo (10) begin their dance performance with a vals. The group danced to three different types of Latin music, finishing off with an unveiling of the Mexican flag to celebrate the end of Hispanic Heritage Month. (HANNIA ANTUNEZ//THE SCROLL)
Inside Leslie Thornton’s class, a poster of Frida Kahlo hangs along with some Hispanic wrestler masks. All around Thornton’s class and the East Annex first floor, similar projects can be found plastered on the walls. (HANNIA ANTUNEZ//THE SCROLL)

As Spartans rush by the first floor of the East Annex, they spot colorful flowers blooming out of the walls, adorning an immense Frida Kahlo while colorful Hispanic banners are strung across the roof. Every year, the Spanish teachers assign their students various projects to decorate both the inside and outside of their classrooms for National Hispanic Heritage Month (NHHM) — educating both Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike about what the month entails.

The decorations adorning the halls are carefully chosen to ensure as many students as possible notice them. The Spanish teachers chose famous painter Frida Kahlo as the focus of this year’s hallway decorations.

“Everybody knows [Frida], even if they don’t know her, they’ve seen her,” Spanish teacher Leslie Thornton said. “I wanted to create a connection and to spark the curiosity of people … Some people see the picture and they tell me, ‘I’ve seen her. Who is she? Why do you have her here?’”

Through these projects, Thornton aims to connect non-native speakers to the vast Hispanic and Latino culture in hopes of fostering a love for the language.

“In every second language acquisition, I believe there is the language factor and the culture factor,” Thornton said. “You can completely ace the language, but if you don’t know the culture, you may get some pretty big clash of reception from the [native speakers].”

In addition to the projects Thornton assigns, she creates history lessons to teach to her Hispanic and non-Hispanic students. The movement behind creating NHHM, the lives of famous Hispanic artists and the changes made to NHHM are only a few of the concepts she teaches. 

“I’ve seen that many of my Hispanic students didn’t know the reason behind [Hispanic Heritage Month], or they had the wrong idea, or the wrong knowledge about it,” Thornton said.

Thornton shares her viewpoint that America is a blanket made of different fabrics symbolizing all the different cultures mixed together. Her desire to spread this perspective is what inspired her to begin these large projects.

“Often, Hispanics feel isolated, so the motivation, the inspiration behind my projects at least from a personal perspective, is that I create awareness that [Hispanics] are not alone in this country,” Thornton said.

Days before NHHM began, Davila led the first meeting of a club dedicated to Hispanics, named the “Avanzando y Superando Club.” Davila was inspired by her experiences at White Station and her college Heritage Spanish class to create this club, which is led in “Spanglish,” ensuring no Hispanic feels left out.

“We’re mixing [Spanish and English], because that’s how we grew up, listening to both,” Davila said.

Many White Station Hispanics are first-generation students, so a lot of the time, these students don’t have any academic guidance from their families. Through this club, Davila hopes to advise Hispanic students in their educational choices, ranging from class selection in high school to college applications.

“[Davila’s] main focus was to help … Hispanic seniors that may not even be aware they have a shot in college, that may not even want to go to college,” Thornton said. “Along the way, it developed to help all Hispanic students, because we realized that our freshman students are in a crucial age where if they don’t find help early … more likely they will get directed into the wrong side of knowledge and information.”

While the Superando and Avanzando club — translated into “The Overcoming and Surpassing Club” — mainly focuses on academics and culture, Davila and Thornton also want their members to have fun. On Oct. 20, the club performed dances to various Latin music in the courtyard to close out Hispanic Heritage Month with a bang.

“Even though we’re a small [Hispanic] community, we can make a big impact in teaching people who we are as Latinos,” Davila said.