POUGHKEEPSIE – Poughkeepsie Middle School celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month in style on October 12 with authentic cuisine and an exhibition of student work focusing on 21 Spanish-speaking countries.
Guests were provided with passports as they traveled from countries such as Cuba and Ecuador learning about the history and culture of those places, all without leaving the PMS gym. Music from famous Hispanic artists like Carlos Santana and Camila Cabello blasted through the speakers, while students and their families snacked on Mexican tacos, Honduran cabbage salad and Peruvian chicken, just to name a few.
“We also have a taste of the different countries,” event organizer Dr. Raina Cunzio, PMS teacher said. “It’s a very culturally immersive experience.”
With these projects, students in grades 6-8 were tasked with learning about the economy, geographic landscape and even some current events out of the countries they focused on. Cunzio and event co- organizer and 7th grade social studies teacher Anthony Panessa noted this is a great opportunity for students to utilize their research and communications skills.
“We have other students who do a life-size travel brochure,” Cunzio explained. “We are a project-based classroom and we really believe in providing alternative assessments for students and that’s really where this was born.”
Cunzio, who teaches 7th grade U.S. history at PMS, described the event as a true collaborative effort where students hung decorations, the Poughkeepsie Farm Project performed a culinary demonstration and students from the Life Skills class made decorative pieces for tables in the lobby.
“It started as a class project and we’ve really tried to grow it,” Cunzio said. “What we’ve really been focusing on here at the middle school is getting the entire school involved in this.”
Seventh grader Kayleen Nunez Bolanos proudly showcased her exhibit about Guatemala, where her family hails from, and even had currency from that country to show guests. Research proved to be easy as she had her mother and grandmother as sources.
“I did this to rediscover my roots,” Nunez Bolanos said. “It’s somewhere that I want to know about and it’s somewhere I’m going to go visit next year.”
Poughkeepsie High School sophomore Leilani Thompson enjoyed hearing the music and learning about the different countries in the exhibits. If PHS were to hold a similar event, she would love to help out.
“I would volunteer and help out with the food,” Thompson said. “I think it’s really nice.”