Each year, the Harpeth Hall community celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month by educating our students in a variety of ways about Hispanic heritage, culture, and our city's Hispanic community and beyond.
The month, which runs from September 15 to October 15, can be a cultural learning opportunity for students. "I think it is important to learn more about Hispanic populations. We have a large Hispanic community in Nashville, so it is important to know the background of a large population in our city," senior Jessie Wills said.
Jessie is the president of the Harpeth Hall Spanish Club. She partnered with senior Ellie Frist, President of the Real World club at Harpeth Hall, to plan an all-school assembly. "We are so excited to present this collaboration with Real World, the Spanish Club, and students from both the Middle and Upper School," Wills continued.
Seventh-grade students Libby Coltea and Hallie Galyon presented on craft projects created in seventh and eighth-grade Spanish classes that are on display in the Marnie Sheridan Gallery. In the study of the ancient Inca civilization, the seventh grade created quipus, a device the Inca used for recording information. "Quipus are made of strings of different colors, lengths, and thicknesses," Galyon explained. "A yellow rope might represent corn while a red rope might represent men available for war."
Eighth-grade Spanish students created Ojos de Huichol. The Huichol people of Mexico's Sierra Madre use yarn and wood pieces to create these spiritual objects. "'Ojos de Huichol' are ritual tools made out of strings of different colors," Coltea shared. "They represent God's eyes and are meant to protect the defenseless such as children. It is customary to make an 'Ojo de Huichol' to commemorate the birth of a child," she said.
Upper School students shared personal experiences from immersion opportunities in Hispanic countries. Mary Virginia Sullivan '23 traveled with her Spanish class in summer 2019 to a small village two hours from San Jose, Costa Rica and stayed with host families for a week to learn about Costa Rican culture and to serve the community in a variety of ways.
Sullivan said of the experience, "Although we went to serve that community, I found that these experiences left more of an imprint on me and my class. By connecting to this Hispanic village, I not only improved my Spanish speaking, but I also created friendships that will last a lifetime."
Senior Jami Hamman reflected on her experience as a freshman when she participated in the Guatemalan Exchange Program. "I applied for the Guatemalan Exchange Program to practice my Spanish and to learn about a new culture. However, along with that, I gained a best friend and many treasured relationships," Hamman said.
Her family reciprocated and hosted her friend in Nashville. Additionally, Hamman volunteers and gives back to the Nashville Hispanic community. "I've had the privilege to be a part of the ESL program at Harpeth Hall. Since sophomore year, a group of girls and I have gone to Nolensville Pike to teach English to the Hispanic community at Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church," Hamman shared. "[These experiences] have enriched my time here at Harpeth Hall while shaping me into the person I am today."
The assembly guest speaker was Juliana Ospina Cano, Executive Director of Conexion Americas, the leading Latino serving non-profit in Tennessee whose mission is "to build a welcoming community and create opportunities where Latino families can belong, contribute, and succeed."
Juliana immigrated to the United States from Columbia when she was fifteen. When she arrived in Miami, Florida with her family, they did not know the city, the culture, or how to speak the language.
"I didn't know how completely my life would change," she said of her experience moving to the United States. She shared her path through high school, college, and into her career which led her to Washington, D.C. where she worked for UnidosUS (formerly National Council of La Raza) where she shaped, accelerated and broadened access to education for underserved students across the United States.
The Harpeth Hall students were very engaged in the question/answer period following Juliana's remarks. She explained what immigrants need when they move to the United States. "They need food and shelter, of course, and they also need friends, schools, transportation, help navigating the city, a place to worship, a place to feel open and vulnerable." She continued, "They need a place where they feel safe to tell us their dreams – why they made this journey and what they hoped would happen for them and their family."
Juliana also stressed the importance of being authentic and true to who you are. "To honor the legacy of my parents, I had to be honest with myself and authentic. For me to champion the causes that I cared about tactfully and with grace, I had to own my own story. We need more people who can share authenticalld who they really are."
The assembly closed with Ellie Frist inviting the Spanish II classes to the stage to share a song with the audience. The girls sang and danced to the popular tune while the students in the audience stood to enthusiastically support their peers.