Each year from September 15 to October 15, we honor Hispanic Heritage Month – a month dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the influence of Hispanic and Latinx people across the United States.
“I am proud to be Cuban. I do not hide my Hispanic heritage, and I am not ashamed of it. I won’t change my natural, curly hair by straightening it. Nor am I not afraid to speak Spanish when I am out in public. Not changing who I am, is how I honor Hispanic Heritage Month,” shared Sandra, 17, a Pace Polk girl.
Pace serves hundreds of girls from countless different cultural backgrounds across Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. At Pace Jacksonville, high school students Jossmaire and Natalie are proud of their Puerto Rican heritage. “We are very colorful people,” says Natalie, a ninth grader who first came to Pace in January. Jossmaire, a tenth grader about to complete her first year at Pace, echoes Natalie’s love of Puerto Rican diversity: “You can’t pinpoint who is Puerto Rican or not… everybody has completely different ways of belief and arts, so it’s really good.”
Pace is proud to create a safe and inclusive environment that recognizes girls for their unique cultural identities. To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Jossmaire and Natalie are creating a mural alongside their classmates. Jay writes: “para mi gente,” which means “for my people.” “It’s a tribute to the people that are like us – the Hispanics and Latinos.” She also writes “si se puede,” or “yes we can” on the mural to uplift her classmates.
Natalie takes a visual approach to honor this month. She paints an outline of an umbrella, an homage to a beautiful umbrella-lined street in Puerto Rico that she recalls from her childhood.
For Mercedes, an eighth grader at Pace Collier, Hispanic Heritage Month is all about celebrating her family’s roots in Mexico. She loves to “make Spanish foods and celebrate” at home, while at Pace, she has the opportunity to “dress up with something from within [her] culture” to commemorate the month.
Whether Pace girls are doing an art project, wearing culturally significant clothing, or tasting cuisines from around the globe, every day at Pace gives girls a chance to feel accepted and empowered to share their cultures with pride.
Natalie loves sharing her cultural knowledge with her classmates. She says “when we’re talking about a [relevant] topic… everyone is like: ‘Jay and Natalie – they’re Puerto Rican.’” This sense of ownership over her culture is reinforced by her history class at Pace. “They teach us about heritage and Hispanic heritage. It gives us comfortability to talk about it.”
This sense of cultural acceptance goes beyond one month of the year. From her classmates wearing vibrant shirts on Haitian Flag Day to enjoying turkey at Pace Collier’s Thanksgiving feast, Mercedes has learned that despite their many differences, “everyone has something in common.”
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