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Varnett celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month is under way and The Varnett Public School is taking notice.

Posters illustrating Hispanic and Latino American achievement decorate the walls throughout the district and represent the growing number of Latino students enrolled at this Houston charter school.

The commemoration, which runs from September 15 to October 15, started as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson. It was expanded to a 30-day period under President Ronald Reagan in 1988.

September 15 marks the anniversary of independence of five Latin America countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days during this period and Columbus Day on October 12.

“It’s important to celebrate our diversity and the contributions Hispanics and Latinos have made to this country,” said Adiela Lopez, a discipline coordinator who hails from Colombia. Ms. Lopez has contributed to the making of signs and posters and is active in recruiting bands to play at Varnett for the districtwide Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

“We also want to acknowledge the many Hispanic families who have made Varnett their school of choice," she said.

All campuses will celebrate with a special lunch on Oct. 9 when  family members will arrive and share a meal with students. Usually they come in traditional attire.

The Hispanic population in the United States totals 54 million, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority group, according to the United States Census Bureau as of July 1, 2013. That constitutes about 17 percent of the U.S. population.

A phenomenal surge in Hispanics has fueled the population growth in Texas, the New York Times reported in 2011, citing statistics from the Census Bureau. Hispanics and Latinos make up 38 percent of the state’s 25.1 million people, the Times reported.

At Varnett, Hispanics and Latinos make up about 48 percent of the more than 1,600-student enrollment. East Campus totals about 80 percent and Northeast Campus about 63 percent.

"National Hispanic Heritage Month is a good time for us to reflect on our roots and is a reminder of where we come from," said East Campus PE Coach Jean Carlo DeLeon. Last year, DeLeon ran a program to teach Spanish-speaking adults how to speak English.

At the Northeast Campus, Leticia Peralta has been recruiting Spanish-speaking parents for the campus Parent Teacher Organization. So far the mother of a girl in kindergarten has about 40 parents and a diverse group.

"By working together we can make a difference in the lives of our kids, no matter what language you speak," she said.

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