Hispanic Heritage Month

  • The Aspen Difference
Jessie Skipwith

The month of September brings with it the annual celebration of “National Hispanic Heritage Month.”  I place the name of this celebration in quotes because as we all strive to meet other members of the human family where they are, as well as recognizing that words matter, the name of this celebration may or may not resonate with individual members of any number of cultural or national groups of people who we intend to celebrate and recognize throughout this month long celebration.

Hispanic Heritage Month: From September 15, which is the anniversary of independence for several Latin American countries, to October 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

In my own personal and professional growth, I continue to strive to be increasingly intentional and aware that the words I use and the message I intend to deliver are actually received in accord with that intention.  As such, one invitation that we all have this month is to learn more about the various definitions and distinctions between Hispanic, Latino(x), Chicano and Mestizo.  One key takeaway in my efforts to meet others where they are is to CELEBRATE first and foremost; and to bring people together through learning, understanding, dialogue and relationship.

Aspen Academy extends both an ongoing opportunity and invitation to engage with, see, and learn from people different from ourselves from all over the world.  As I settle into this new school year, both personally and professionally, I reflect on several summer conversations and beginning of the school year preparations, as well as my own personal history, which exposed me to different global cultures from a very early age.  Additionally, engaging with our very own students, parents and faculty on a daily basis offers such a rich and vibrant perspective into the diversity of life and life experiences that represent our Aspen Academy family.  During the month of September, we have many recognitions and traditions to celebrate.  With National Hispanic Heritage Month in particular, I can recall so many wonderful memories of my interactions with people from all over the world.

Growing up in Washington, D.C., both of my parents were 30 year federal employees. This afforded me the opportunity to live in Europe for three years where my family had the chance to hop on a train and visit any number of culturally rich and diverse countries.  Traveling to Spain at an early age sparked a life-long interest in the variety of narratives, art, and culture of Spanish people.  Having a knack for languages, learning Spanish grew into a personal passion for me.  As I continue to develop my Spanish speaking skills, I recall memories of college where I had the chance to leverage Spanish language to connect culturally with soccer teammates from Peru, Nicaragua, Chile, Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, Belize and of course Spain. 

Through these connections and life-long friendships, I was able to travel to Peru on a mission trip to serve in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Lima.  Ultimately, I married my wife of 25 years, who is a native Spanish speaker, born to parents from both Cuba and Spain respectively.  With so many personal memories and experiences imbued with Hispanic/Latinx culture throughout my life, the month of September and Hispanic/Latinx Heritage month always holds a deep and special place in my heart.  I share these personal life experiences not to suggest that they bring about expertise, but rather to share how personal life experiences shape and form our perspectives and worldview.

As each of us continues to keep our own growth at the forefront of our personal development in the area of Cultural Competence, please feel invited to click on the links below to learn a little bit more about some of the additional celebrations that September welcomes.  We find that around the world there are an abundance of celebrations to acknowledge both within and across cultures, geography and nationalities.  Here in our own school community, we have community members who will be engaging in traditions represented through their personal and extended family heritage.

It remains a community goal that every year, more members of our community both feel invited and take advantage of the learning opportunities made available.  When together we build a critical mass of people who feel that they have a seat at the table, creating brave and safe spaces, facilitating ongoing dialogue and respectful, responsive inquiry, collectively we create change for Making the World Better.  In the month of October, each Wednesday evening we will be hosting a parent Book Club created to help each of us to edify the necessary skill of facilitating Inclusive Conversations. You can join by signing up here

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September Celebrations

About the Author

Skipwith_small-square-BIO

Jessie Skipwith is the Director of Elevate, Licensed School Counselor, and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Aspen Academy.

Jessie comes to Aspen Academy with over 20 years of experience in educational leadership and student engagement. He has held head of school positions at elementary, middle and high schools, ran an all-school counseling department, provided private practice counseling services for families and individuals, and has served as the executive director of an education non-profit supporting low-income, English language learners from throughout the greater Denver area. He is a voracious reader of books about how students learn, how families and communities support developing young people, as well as books on progressive, innovative and dynamic new solutions to many of today’s life challenges. Jessie loves that Aspen Academy provides families and students with a small, nurturing and safe environment that encourages students to take healthy risks, to push themselves beyond their comfort zones, and that it inspires insatiable curiosity and wonder in students as they pursue their passions to help make the world a better place to live for all people. Outside of work, he loves to spend time with his wife and two children and enjoying Colorado’s great outdoors while hiking, golfing or skiing.