From mid-September through mid-October, KIPP New Jersey schools across Camden and Newark celebrate Latinx Heritage Month, a month that honors the diverse histories, cultures, and experiences of people with Latin American and Spanish heritage. 

The events and learning that take place during Latinx Heritage Month are just one example of how our school communities are intentionally building out legacy events that students look forward to, events that bring together families and staff, allow students to feel seen and recognized, and more importantly, are really fun!

School leaders like Bridgit Cusato-Rosa and Alexis Conde work hard to create these legacy events each year for Latinx Heritage Month. Below are their reflections on the school traditions they've developed and why these traditions matter to their communities. 

Cusato-Rosa and Eliezer Cartagena practice their bachata steps at a Latin dance night for families in September 2022.

Bridgit Cusato-Rosa
KIPP Lanning Square Middle
Camden, NJ

During Latinx Heritage Month, KIPP Lanning Square Middle comes together to offer students a safe space to express who they are, fostering a culture of inclusion, acceptance, and celebration. We host everything from a potluck where families serve dishes from their country to a Latinx Block party featuring a community soccer game and salsa dance lessons delivered by our staff. Each year, our students have the opportunity to see their culture and identities celebrated. 

Legacy events like these hold a special place in my heart for two reasons. First, they reinforce the idea that our school is more than just a place of learning; it's a close-knit community, or what we at KLSM call ‘familia.’ Just as families have traditions, we too create these events that our students eagerly anticipate year after year. Growing up in Camden, I attended a small Catholic school where all families attended events like dances together. I seek to create a similar community at our school today. 

Secondly, these gatherings offer a chance for every individual to be proud of who they are. This month, students will have the opportunity to write and deliver spoken word poems in English or Spanish about their culture. These opportunities aren't just about celebrating Latinx culture as a whole; they're about recognizing each student as a unique individual. 

I see the impact of this pride at home, too. My own middle school son now proudly wears his Dominican armband on his baseball uniform. But it's taken time for him to embrace his heritage openly. Now, my eight-year-old and six-year-old children ask for water bottles adorned with the Dominican flag. These traditions help children overcome shyness about their identity and provide a platform for them to speak proudly about who they are. 

Alexis Conde reads aloud Octopus Stew by Eric Velasquez to Seek students during Latinx History Month 2023.

Alexis Conde
KIPP Seek Academy
Newark, NJ 

At KIPP Seek Academy, we are intentional about creating traditions and legacy events that students and families can anticipate each year. In the fall, our kindergarteners look forward to heading to a local pumpkin farm. On ‘Picture Me Tomorrow Day,’ students dress up as their future selves. And year-round, our fourth graders participate in ‘Seek Speaks,’ where they find their voices and grow their confidence as they share school, local, and global news with classmates over a daily morning broadcast.

As an American with Cuban and Puerto Rican roots, one of my favorite traditions is celebrating Latinx History Month each year. Growing up in the Bronx, New York during elementary school, and later moving to New Rochelle, my schools did not celebrate Latinx Heritage Month. 

Today, I enjoy being a part of a school community where we embrace this month and honor our diverse heritage. Each year, Seek’s bulletin boards come alive with Hispanic and Latinx changemakers and our classroom read-alouds highlight Hispanic authors and books featuring Latin countries.

This year, we are again welcoming visitors to our school from two educational organizations in Chile. These guests will participate in our morning Community Meeting and tour our classrooms in October to learn more about our approach at Seek and participate in a dialogue about education practices. It's an opportunity for our students to expand their horizons, learn about people’s experiences in Latin countries, and realize how much we can learn from each other. 

At Seek, Latinx Heritage Month is just one aspect of our commitment to fostering a strong sense of community and belonging. These traditions not only bring smiles to our students' faces but also instill in them a sense of pride in their backgrounds.

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