Students celebrate Hispanic heritage

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 14, 1998

By STACEY PLAISANCE / L’Observateur / October 14, 1998

RESERVE – Hispanic heritage was celebrated Friday at Leon Godchaux Junior High School with song, dance, special tributes and recognitions.

The purpose of the program was to enhance cultural diversity and awareness in young students, and emphasis was also placed on freedom, opportunity and education.

Making use of the Spanish language, artistic dances, inspiring words and music, the program demonstrated various aspects of Hispanic culture. ThePledge of Allegiance was recited twice by students, once in English by Kevin Cuello, and again in Spanish by Heather Stewart. Students salutedfamous Hispanic Americans, acknowledging the dynamic achievements of Roberto Clemente, Jaime Escalante, Gloria Estefan, Rita Moreno and Antonia Novello.

Guest speaker Dr. Cesar M. Roca Jr. shared with the audience his quest toovercome adversity and take advantage of opportunities available in the United States, especially in the way of education.

Roca was born in Cuba and fled to Mexico with his family at a very young age due to mounting political turmoil. At age 14, Roca relocated to Kenner,were he attended and graduated from Bonnabel High School. He continuedhis education and, after years of hard work and dedication, received his doctorate in medicine from Tulane University.

In his speech at the program, Roca emphasized the importance of education and personal responsibility.

“You are masters of your own destinies,” Roca said. “You have greatopportunities in this country, and every bit of education you get counts.

You have to take responsibility for yourself.”Student Josue’ Aguilar read a piece from the works of Maya Angelou on racism, reminding students that diversity and cultural development requires respect and appreciation for people and cultures from all walks of life.

Superintendent Cleveland Farlough said in his closing remarks at he program that, “it took many people of different cultures and colors to make this country great. You need to see this and other phases ofdiversity.”Susan Bray and Oscar Enamorado with the Cervantes Hispanic Art Foundation and the Hispanic Organization for Latin Arts demonstrated a Portuguese Waltz, the Una Danza, and East St. John High School studentsperformed a dance from the Dominican Republic.

The East St. John dancers were Josselin Aguilar, Yadira Espinal, GlendaHarrilal, Jessica Mendieta, Dulce Michelen, Helen Ordonez, Maybelle Ordonez and Nina Torres.

Music selections by Oscar Avila, also with the Cervantes Hispanic Art Foundation, were Mexican vocal pieces performed with an acoustic guitar.

One of Avila’s selections was “LaBamba,” which encouraged some audience participation, as it is a familiar song here in the United States.

Other participants in the program were the Rev. Marc A. Nelson of St.Marks Baptist Church, Raul Alexander Chavez, Jackie Forest and Debbie Schum, in addition to Farlough.

The program was initiated and organized by Sandra Fernandez, Title 1 teacher at Leon Godchaux, and Elizabeth Leatherwood, a Spanish teacher at East St. John. A reception for guests and special attendees followed theprogram.

“It was good to see the schools working together like this,” Farlough said.

“That’s what we need to do.”

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