In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the City of Bloomington Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs hosted an awards ceremony Monday night. It recognized the achievements of business owners, Monroe County Community School Corporation educators and students and other community advocates.
"This awards ceremony acknowledges the contributions of Latino and non-Latino alike to the community" Josefa Luce, Latino Programs director for the City of Bloomington said.
Luce said, "Latino visibility is achieved when all community members are active in helping to uplift the voices of marginalized groups."
“It is important to let our students know to be proud of their heritage,” Luce said.
The award ceremony drew a crowd of about 80 people, mostly from Latinx backgrounds.
One award recipient, Julian Luna, is a math and social studies teacher for first graders at Summit Elementary School. He was awarded for Outstanding Community Agency alongside other dual-language instructors from Summit and Clear Creek elementary schools.
In a dual-language program, students spend half the day taking classes in Spanish, and the other half in English.
“It allows Spanish-speaking students to be leaders in their own classes,” Luna said.
He hopes to see the program implemented in more public elementary schools.
The Outstanding Business Award was given to Goldleaf Hydroponics, received by co-owner Mónica Billman. She expressed her gratitude for the award, but also disappointment of city officials in regard to recent conflicts at the Bloomington Community Farmers' Market.
“Take my acceptance of this award as proof that the city did not extend a hand to market vendors and minorities like me, which had countless opportunities to show solidarity in creative ways within their power,” Billman said.
The Outstanding Latino Leader Award was given to Patricia Marvin, who works with the School for English Learners in association with MCCSC. She attended the event with her daughter Steffi Marvin, who was one recipient of the Outstanding Latino High School Students award.
Marvin said this weekend literacy school helps new Latinx students feel welcomed into the community. According to student speakers, classes like these led by some of their favorite teachers help them feel empowered and academically engaged.
Students spoke in appreciation of teachers that have been formative in their education process, especially during the transition of one education system to another. Learning a new language is part of the transition.
Ricardo Martins, a doctoral student at IU and a member of the commission, described the importance education can have in helping to understand, accept and celebrate cultural differences.
“We need to help each other to understand what it is that makes us human,” Martins said.