McPolin celebration shows off its diversity | ParkRecord.com

McPolin celebration shows off its diversity

From left Tate Campbell, Van Talbott, Enzo Massimino, Chase Geagan, Graham Winzeler and Henry Peters dance around the McPolin Elementary School gym during the schools celebration of Dia De La Raza.

From left Tate Campbell, Van Talbott, Enzo Massimino, Chase Geagan, Graham Winzeler and Henry Peters dance around the McPolin Elementary School gym during the schools celebration of Dia De La Raza.

Students at McPolin Elementary School were in a festive mood last week.

The school on Friday, Oct. 14, held a celebration of Dia de la Raza, the Latin American version of Columbus Day. But rather than reveling in Columbus reaching the Americas, the party served as a celebration of Hispanic culture. It gave the school’s large population of Hispanic students a chance to show off a bit of their backgrounds and allowed their peers to join in on the fun.

“To celebrate your own culture is so important because you can see other people accepting what is important to you, and you’re able to share that,” said Heidi Stanger, the school’s librarian and organizer of the celebration. “It’s a way of understanding one another and gaining empathy and an appreciation for what you have and somebody else has. You realize that different is not bad — different is good and we can understand each other.”

The celebration featured a number of activities. Parents taught students how to make tortillas by hand and how to dance salsa and merengue. Students also participated in dramatic storytelling sessions of folklore and pieces of classic Spanish-language literature, such as “Don Quixote.”

Stanger said it was amazing to see everyone, from teachers to parents and students, all celebrating a culture together.

“It’s such a natural thing,” she said. “And if you start at such a young age, seeing how people are different and can come together, then as you get older, it’s just something you’re going to do. That’s really what the United States is about, is creating an environment where we can celebrate our similarities and celebrate our differences.”

For their part, the students seemed to enjoy themselves. The success of the party, as well as an event last year in which students made tamales, has encouraged Stanger to begin planning future events with a similar focus.

“We’d like to do at least one major thing like this a year and more if possible,” she said. “A lot of people were really excited and saying we need to do this more often. You just get that positive energy and the acceptance level escalates.”