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Celebrating a culture of faith and service

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National Hispanic Heritage Month ended Oct. 15, but at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Potomac Shores, the celebration continues with student-led service.

For the past month, the National Spanish Honor Society has educated students and faculty on the contributions of the people whose ancestors come from Mexico, Spain, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. The school’s celebration began Sept. 15 with members of the Spanish Honor Society handing out sweets to students on the way into school. A student favorite was the “Las Sevillana Oblea”— a small wafer filled with cajeta (caramelized goat’s milk).

In addition to trying new treats, students were encouraged to participate in Hispanic Heritage Month trivia. Members of the honor society asked a variety of Hispanic culture questions on the announcements, such as, “What is the name of the song sung on a person's birthday in Mexico?” (Las Mañanitas) and, “What is one of the Seven Wonders of the world in South America?” (the waterfalls of Iguazú). Met with many eager student responses, the weekly trivia proved to be a great opportunity for the school community to learn more about Hispanic culture.

Not only was the Spanish Honor Society committed to teaching Hispanic culture, but they also furthered a culture of service in the school community. Last week, students filled many boxes with school supplies to donate to its school supply drive. The drive supports underprivileged Latino students in partnership with the PROBIGUA organization, a nonprofit that promotes youth literacy in Guatemala. The drive also benefits the Latino Student Fund in Washington. Marianela Giraldez-Hernandez, the world language department chair at John Paul the Great, explained the importance of the drive to the Hispanic culture: “One of the pillars of Hispanic culture that permeates family traditions is education. Education is everything.” With this in mind, the Spanish Honor Society’s drive helps Latino youths further their education by lowering the cost of school supplies.

Sweets and treats made a reappearance in the Spanish Honor Society’s bake sale booth at the school’s fall festival. Assisted by Giraldez-Hernandez, seniors Barbara Rivera, Ethiana Hacsh, John-Paul Kintz, Thomas Pohlmeier, Gabriella Vilca, Alexander Pope, Michael Short, Molly Jennings and Isaura Hernandez-Giráldez baked brownies, muffins and cookies to sell. By the end of the fall festival, they had raised enough money to transport the donated school supplies to Guatemala.

Students also were given the opportunity to experience faith life in light of Hispanic Heritage Month. In the school’s chapel, students joined together to pray a rosary in Spanish. During religion classes, teachers prayed in Spanish. The celebration of the Mass also featured the first and second reading in Spanish, as well as the Gospel. According to senior Isaura Hernandez-Giráldez, president of the Spanish Honor Society, “Hispanic Heritage Month showed other students that the Catholic faith includes many different cultures.”

Fulfilling the goals of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the honor society effectively educated, encouraged and served others. As a result, they continue to represent the beauty of the Spanish language today, and ultimately why we ought to appreciate the culture that contributes so much to the Catholic identity. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021