TOLEDO, Ohio — Toledo's Escuela SMART Academy in the Old South End wants to expose its community to the Latino culture.
Wednesday marks the start of Hispanic Heritage Month and the bilingual school is teaching the true meaning by hosting a colorful Fiesta Con Escuela SMART Academy.
"We have families and members of our community that are celebrating with us the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins Sept. 15. And so we're out here to celebrate our cultures together with food, dancing, arts," said Natasha Allen, the principal at Escuela SMART Academy.
Sept. 15 is significant because it marks the independence of many Latin American countries.
For the kids, it's a chance to open their eyes and expand their knowledge.
"'cause I wanna learn new things and new stuff and it makes us happy. And I feel like that it's maybe important to learn, respect and have fun," said a third grade student at Escuela SMART Academy.
"Today to see my friends and celebrate the culture," added a fourth grader.
"It means a lot. Because I love to learn new things and especially Spanish, because that's my second language," said sixth grade student Estrella Martinez.
For parents, embracing other cultures is what they want to see their children doing.
"Especially with everything going on, like the pandemic and then all the other race issues. It helps a lot just to bring everybody together and show them that, yeah we're all different in some ways. But at the same time, we're all the same," said Amanda Nalley, mother of an Escuela SMART Academy student.
And about that pandemic.
Well, Principal Allen, says it shouldn't stop them from enjoying the time they have together.
"We don't want to lose sight of that. We still want to be able to celebrate each other and throughout the year we'll continue to do things like this. Just celebrate our culture and what it is to be a family here at Escuela SMART Academy," said Allen.
"Because when I grow up I wanna learn Mexican and dance and learn how to draw," explained the third grader. "And just make new stuff."
There are several other events planned for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Our coverage will continue on-air, online and on our free WTOL 11 News app over the coming weeks.