Each year, National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed nationally from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, by celebrating the history, culture and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
This observation first began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1988, the celebration was expanded to a 30-day period by President Ronald Reagan.
Sept. 15 is a significant date as it is the Independence Day for five Latin American countries — Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Additionally, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, we showcase Hispanic-American role models who have inspired others to achieve success. Although the national celebration only lasts one month, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) provides schools with instructional resources for students to learn about Hispanic Heritage throughout the entire school year.
M-DCPS’ Division of Academics has compiled resource guides for elementary and secondary school classrooms with lessons plans, resources and activities that can be incorporated into the classroom.
The 2021-22 senior high school resources contain new information and activities so that students can compare political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, with the principles of freedom and democracy, which are essential to the founding principles of our nation. This is an important principle due to the alarming rise in various Latin America countries adopting and adhering to these concerning political ideologies.
This year, M-DCPS’ Department of Social Sciences has provided an addendum highlighting the history of Colombia and the contributions of Colombian Americans to U.S. history and culture titled, “Focus on Colombia.” Previous “Focus on” publications have been included Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Additionally, Miami-Dade public schools have a variety of activities for students at all grade levels:
• The Division of Academics coordinates the Hispanic Heritage Read-In Chain to encourage all schools to establish academic enriching experiences that support literacy for teachers and students during Hispanic Heritage Month. All schools are urged to make literacy a significant part of the month.
• An essay contest was developed to deepen students’ understanding of Hispanic Heritage Month, as well as contributions to U.S. History.
• The Division of Academics asks each school to identify a Hispanic Heritage Studies Advocate, who participates in professional development and promotes Hispanic Heritage in their schools.
• M-DCPS promotes the Governor and First Lady of Florida’s Hispanic Heritage Essay and art contests. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Hispanic-American Community Leaders and Champions.” Students in grades K-3 are invited to participate in an art contest while students in grades 4-12 are invited to participate in an essay contest.
Learning a second language enhances cognitive development, develops critical thinking, and can provide the foundation for long-term success in school and beyond. This year, M-DCPS is launching an initiative called “Beyond Bilingual – Biliterate: Seal Your Future!,” which is a district-wide awareness campaign that provides Sixth- 12th grade students and their families with information regarding requirements for graduating with a Florida Seal of Biliteracy.
In addition to print and digital communications, the school district also provides professional development secondary counselors in grades 6-12 on the Florida Seal of Biliteracy guidelines and criteria and expands opportunities for students to participate in foreign language programs.
As a community, the diverse cultures and ethnicities are what makes us stronger. Hispanic-Americans have been integral to the prosperity of the U.S. Their contributions to the nation are immeasurable, and they embody the best of American values. The Hispanic-American community has left an indelible mark on the U.S. culture and economy.