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Events across Port Arthur schools highlight cultural impacts

The Port Arthur Independent School District is saying goodbye to Hispanic Heritage Month in its final week with a host of celebrations, meetings and parades.

Monday, the school district held a student advisory meeting at the Memorial High School Dance Hall to start the festivities. Ricardo Celis, parent liaison for the multi-lingual department, said the event featured several influential Hispanic speakers as well as a performance by the Mexican Heritage Society queens and dancers.

Dr. Melvin Getwood, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, gave the welcome before introducing the special guest speaker, Julio Cesar Delgado II.

“The whole meeting was a celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month,” Celis said. “The president of the Mexican Heritage Society, Zulema Escobedo, was there and the queens were dancing and talking about their outfits that each represented a different state from Mexico.

“After that we had a speaker, Julio Cesar Delgado II. He’s a Memorial High School graduate and a student leader at Lamar University. He was sharing his experience and giving advice to the students on how to become leaders. Some of the things he shared with the group was the power of working hard, how to stand up for themselves and to get close to people who can help them.”

The next event on the docket includes “The Child is Mine and You are My Supporter!” which will be held Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Port Arthur ISD Administration Building.

Parents, volunteers and the community are encouraged to attend and listen to the Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie give a message about building healthy relationships with the schools and parents as well as garnering success among students.

Coordinator of Title I Parent Engagement Initiative Dr. LaWanda Finney said she wants to stress the importance of parents attending the meeting and the part it plays in their children’s educational success.

“Our superintendent is always sharing information and he is going to give his charge on what he wants parents to do to be engaged and involved on campuses,” she said. “Our parents are equal partners and when they are engaged, their kids do better in school and their graduation rates are higher. We are always trying to reach out to our community and who else better to do it than our superintendent.”

After his speech, Porterie will open the floor for a Q&A. The event is open to the entire community and translators will be present for Spanish speakers.

Other Hispanic Heritage Month events include parades hosted by several elementary campuses. Wheatley will host their Hispanic Heritage Month Parade Thursday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Lakeview will host a breakfast celebration Friday at 7:45 a.m. Adams, Washington and Tyrrell Elementary will host their parades Friday at 9 a.m.

Starting next Monday, Ricardo Celis will be starting a Latino Family Literacy Project to encourage the Hispanic community to read more at home.

“The reading program was created primarily for the Latino community,” he said. “It is going to be a program where we use books in English and Spanish that have some relevance to our culture. Both students and parents will get to borrow the books, take them home, read them and we will discuss them at the next class.

“Reading is important and we want the students and parents to start reading at home as well. A student who reads 20 minutes a day will read 1,800,000 thousands words a year and when the time comes, they will perform 90 percent better than their peers.”

The class will be held every Monday from 6-8 p.m. at the Port Arthur Public Library.

“We are celebrating our culture and I think it’s important to not forget our roots.”