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¿Como Llegué Aqui? - Lake Seneca Elementary Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with Panel of Heroes

Last Friday, as part of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Parent-Teacher Association at Lake Seneca Elementary School in Germantown hosted a cultural assembly titled “¿Como Llegué Aqui? Or How Did I Get Here? Hispanics: One Endless Voice to Enhance Our Traditions.

The program was designed to engage students in grades three through five in a conversation, in Spanish, with people who have created successful lives and are positively influencing and enriching society. The five-person panel showed that the leaders of today were once students too and discussed what the students can do today to prepare for a successful future and have the same kind of impact on society.

“It's with events like the one we held at Lake Seneca to demonstrate to our youth that we can foster better relationships, build community, and respect for one another despite differences,” said Yesenia Flores Diaz, the president of the Lake Seneca ES PTA.

Lake Seneca Elementary School Principal Terri Johnson welcomed five panelists to the school. The panel allowed students to see how people from similar backgrounds, heritage, and dreams created a successful life for themselves. Two of the five panelists were even Montgomery County Public Schools graduates, John España and Elizabeth Lilly. España graduated from Seneca Valley High School, and Lilly graduated from Richard Montgomery High School. The other panelists included civil engineer Milton Valentin and Dr. Gloria Gonzales, a sociologist, and endurance athlete. The panel was moderated by Washington, D.C.-based reporter Carime Hernandez.

Hernandez is a reporter for the Washington, D.C Univision News station and can be seen reporting on news in the DMV at both the 6:00 pm and 11:00 pm news broadcasts. She was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States at the age of six. She grew up in South Florida. The Lake Seneca students were excited to hear from a Spanish language television reporter who has worked on shows such as Primer Impacto.

España and his family own Tortacos Restaurant with locations in Germantown and Gaithersburg. He talked to the students about his family business and how they started by conducting research, learning about competition, formulating a plan and always doing their best. After realizing the need in this area for good Mexican food. His family is originally from Guatemala and moved to Maryland from California. He told the students about how his family held fast to their dreams even after ups and downs.

Lilly recently published her first picture book entitled: “Geraldine” which about a giraffe who has to learn how to contort her long neck to fit in a human world. The story is based on a personal experience from childhood where Lilly was the new girl who attended two elementary schools and never quite felt like she "fit in."

Milton Valentin is a civil engineer by day; and the lead singer of the rock band Ocho de Bastos on evenings and weekends. He stressed the importance of being organized as a student. Learning subjects like math and science. Practicing building things with your hands, he used Lego's as an example. He spoke to the youngsters about the importance of practice and having a passion for something, which he learned through playing a musical instrument.

Gloria Gonzalez shared her path as an endurance athlete and how she helps others with their fitness goals to enjoy healthy lifestyles. She encouraged children to start with walking (short distances for at least 15 minutes) and invite their families to do the same. Dr. Gonzalez talked about many activities available in our local area for youth to enjoy and be physically active so that one day they may participate in marathons or triathlons.

Photos courtesy Yesenia Flores Diaz

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