Diversity. Culture. Language. Traditions. These are just a few of the various ways public charter schools throughout the country celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month as each year charter schools open their doors to all children, regardless of background.
Every year Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School holds a month-long celebration celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month including interactive workshops, performances, and in-class activities led by community artists. “All events are inspired by the national theme of Hispanic Heritage Month and culminate in a student-led festival that includes dance, theater, poetry and song for the entire student body and staff community,” said Mandy Toomey, communications manager for the school.
Celebrating an individual’s unique diversity is a key component of the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School located in the heart of Washington, D.C. “We see our students who have a passion for the arts bring their tremendous talents to bear in our annual cultural celebrations.” said Karen Rivas, principal of the Sonia Gutierrez campus. The school invites professionals from the local arts community to work with students on creative projects. Previously, the school had a local poet come in to work with the students in the areas of writing and presenting poetry. Education staff from the Shakespeare Theatre worked with students on theatrical expression. “Beautiful expressions of student diversity are also captured in our literary arts magazine, which students create, edit and produce,” added Rivas.
The school is comprised of students who represent more than 85 different countries internationally. The largest country represented in the student population is El Salvador followed by Ethiopia. The school also has students from the following countries: Honduras, Angola, Guatemala, Myanmar, Pakistan, Mexico, and Turkey among many others!
The school serves more than 2,500 adult learners each year speaking over 45 different languages including English, Spanish, French, Amharic, Arabic, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Approximately 73 percent of these students identify as Hispanic or Latino.
Not only do the students represent a diverse range of backgrounds at Carlos Rosario, but so do the teachers, as the school aims to have diversity all-encompassing of the entire school. “We are very proud of our diverse faculty. We have made intentional efforts to support our lowest level English classes with paraeducators who are native speakers of Spanish and Amharic,” said Harvard Street Campus Principal HollyAnn Freso-Moore. To ensure that the teachers reflect the student population and come from diverse backgrounds, Freso-Moore added, “we have created an apprentice teacher recruitment pipeline, where they can teach for one session a day and receive instructional support and feedback from our professional development coaches.”
At Carlos Rosario, students have the opportunity to take literacy and English language classes as well as native language literacy classes in Spanish. Students are also offered technology courses, citizenship preparation, and GED preparation in both English and Spanish. Additionally, English as a Second Language course are available to families of students. The latest addition to the schools’ support system is a new bilingual paraeducator program, which provides students a chance to earn a seal of biliteracy as well as a paraprofessional certification.
Often, we hear schools talk about diversity, but I wanted to know how the staff at Carlos Rosario incorporate diverse practices into everyday students’ lives. “Diversity is the foundation of our mission and values to ensure that our students come to a safe environment where they can get the education, resources, and support needed to thrive as an integral part of their D.C. community,” said Arts Integration and Cultural Programs Manager, Tara Villanueva. “We encourage students to bring their whole selves to the school.” Villanueva further broke down the importance of celebrating students’ diversity in three ways:
- Empowering students with to share their cultural knowledge and heritage to build confidence and language skills
- Learn through cultural exchanges with fellow classmates and alumni
- Expose students to new environments to build a strong community
On Saturday, September 29, 2018, Carlos Rosario will partner to present the Nuestra Ciudad/Our City Hispanic Heritage Month Festival, at the National Portrait Gallery from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Learn more information about Nuestra Ciudad here. See below for other Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations hosted by Carlos Rosario.
Gabriela Lujan Art Exhibition
Peruvian-American visiting artist Gabriela Lujan will share an ofrenda from the award-winning Gateways/Portales exhibit originally exhibited at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum. Her work is now installed at the school’s Columbia Heights campus. Students and staff from the school community will add to this ofrenda with memories of people who have passed away in their lives. Ofrendas pay tribute to those who have passed away and are celebrated during the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos).
Art Education with Tatiana Figeroua-Ramirez
In-house visiting artist, Tatiana Figeroua-Ramirez from Puerto Rico, will lead students in spoken word workshops through storytelling and self-reflection.
Celebrating Hispanic and Latinx Leaders
In classrooms, teachers are incorporating multiple activities on Hispanic/Latinx community leaders and their impact on Latinx history. The school’s libraries will also highlight relevant Latinx literature for students to read and bring home to their families.
Community Open House
On Friday, October 19, 2018, the school will host a community open house to welcome people in to view the Gateway/Portales Exhibition. Attendees will be able to meet artists, see performances, join student-led tours, and hear from the exhibit’s original curator Dr. Ariana Curtis.
Through a partnership with the Washington Performing Arts and GALA Hispanic Theatre will provide discounted ticket prices for students.
Kelsey Nelson is the manager of campaigns and publications at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Read more about the diversity of students in our public charter schools on our Stories and Impact page.