Before the scholars arrived in the auditorium the panelist stood together for pictures.
They were different heights and genders. They grew up in different parts of New York and studied different subjects in school, but two commonalities brought them together on this sunny Friday afternoon at Democracy Prep Charter Middle: knowledge and appreciation for a heritage that spans multiple countries and continents joined by one language, and the desire to show a younger generation how that heritage has driven them toward success.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 each year in celebration of many Latin countries that won their independence during that time period.
At our schools, Hispanic Heritage Month has been celebrated during advisory lessons, movie nights, and cultural programs For Jerome Jackson, ACT teacher at Democracy Prep Charter Middle School, hosting a panel represented an opportunity for scholars to hear from young, successful professionals who had stories and backgrounds that mirrored their own.
“It’s important for scholars to learn about their community and other communities,” Jackson says. “As educators it’s part of preparing our kids for the world. They are learning how to recognize and understand others’ differences.”
In addition to giving advice about navigating the college experience and sharing stories of for how their heritage has helped them succeed in their professions , they also answered questions from the scholars such as “How did you deal with bullying when you were in school?”
For panelist Steven Mercado, giving scholars a chance to meet people they could relate to is one of the reasons he was driven to participate in the program. “Kids don’t always get a chance to see role models beyond a historical context,” he says.
Kiara G, an 8th-grade scholar who served as a moderator, says she was excited that this panel was a part of the school’s recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month. “I think they showed scholars that just because you’re a certain race, it shouldn’t be in the way of you becoming successful.”