Their successful outreach to a multicultural parent base has earned the Blaine Elementary School PTA national recognition from PTO Today - a resource for parent organizations throughout the country.
Blaine’s PTA surpassed 350 similar organizations to receive the 2013 Parent Group of the Year Award, and was featured in the September issue of PTO Today Magazine. The group was recognized for its successful and consistent engagement of parents across a wide range of cultures, especially with regard to Hispanic families. Last year, in collaboration with the school’s Bilingual Action Committee (BAC), the PTA co-hosted “Noche Hispana” – a daylong celebration of Hispanic heritage, which is represented among over a quarter of Blaine’s student population.
“Scores of volunteers planned and coordinated an extraordinary evening of arts, crafts, music, dance, food, and celebration of community, transforming our humble cafeteria into a colorful and vibrant showcase extoling Hispanic arts and culture,” said Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere. “The dedicated volunteers and the countless hours of preparation helped to make Noche Hispana one of the proudest moments in Blaine’s history.”
In the weeks leading up to the event, the Blaine PTA held workshops where 125 students in grades 1-8 created original artwork to be displayed at the celebration. The workshops were coordinated by Maria Guasso, the school’s art teacher and a Blaine parent.
“We didn’t just teach the kids how to make a pretty piece of art,” she said. “We read stories, translated from Spanish, which complimented the artwork in relevant and purposeful ways. And we examined cultural artifacts and historical examples that served as inspiration for their creations.”
Similar workshops were coordinated for this year’s celebration, which was expanded from one evening to an entire week. Now underway, “Semana Hispana” began on Monday, October 7 with a D.J. spinning Latin music as students danced outdoors. The rest of the week will include Spanish read-alouds, arts and crafts sessions, and motivational speeches by Latino television personalities such as Angelica Atondo (Univision Chicago) and Liza Echeverria (TNT).
The culminating event for “Semana Hispana” will be Thursday, October 10, when students and their families will gather to enjoy the student art show, Central and South American dances and a homemade feast featuring traditional dishes from several Latin countries.
“By promoting these activities and events, the Bilingual Advisory Committee is helping weave the fabric of diversity at Blaine Elementary,” said Carlos Gonzales, president of the BAC. “We want every child, including those whose first language is not English, to feel welcome and integrated to the extended community. And what better place to start this than in their own school.”