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Harper celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Winners with their ribbons in front of the gallery.

Hispanic Heritage Month just ended, but Harper Elementary students are still celebrating the culture as winners of the folk art gallery contest were announced this week.

The Harper Folk Art Gallery was inspired by the effort to move beyond just using routine morning announcements to share Hispanic heritage.

“During our planning to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, a goal that our Principal (Heidi) Estep set for our bilingual team was to find a way to incorporate our students,” bilingual teacher and gallery organizer Rosalina Martinez said. “We decided on a folk art gallery because it is an integral part of many Central and South American cultures. You can see it in bags, ceramics, dishes, paintings and jewelry. The colors are vibrant, and the creation is always something unique.”

Ms. Martinez said this was a great way to get students involved while encouraging others to celebrate heritage.

Victoria's pinata. “When creating these projects, we get to celebrate our students’ heritage,” she said. “As educators, we have the opportunity to do that in our schools. Hispanic Heritage Month is a great way to celebrate diversity in our classrooms. It also helps teach others about the beauty of the Hispanic culture.”

According to Ms. Martinez, there were more than 60 quality artwork submissions for the gallery.

“We were excited to see how our students expressed themselves artistically,” she said. “So many of them knocked it out of the park. We had everything from traditional drawings to an eccentric football painting with a flare. You can see the effort they put into their art. We received sculptures, paintings, drawings, clothes and pinatas.”

Choosing the final winners was difficult.

“It was tough,” Ms. Martinez said. “There were so many pieces that deserved recognition or a prize. In the end, our judges did a great job, and we had our winners.”

The judging process included teachers nominating art pieces with 20 selected for the final round. From there, teachers volunteered to join Assistant Principal Jason Brown to judge by grade level using a rubric to evaluate the art on attention to theme, neatness, color, details and creativity. 

Winners in grade categories are:


  1. Emiliano Hernandez, 1st 
  2. Amanda Lopez, Kinder
  3. Jayden Alvarez, Kinder

Emiliano Hernandez


  1. Victoria Penaloza, 3rd
  2. Angel Velasquez, 3rd
  3. Emily Martinez, 3rd

Victoria Penaloza


  1. Sahid Flores, 4th 
  2. Monica Redmond, 4th
  3. Lucas Gonzalez, 4th

Sahid Flores.

The winners chose their inspirations from a variety of sources.

Sahid's Day of the Dead painting. “I was inspired by the Disney movie ‘Coco,’” said 4th-grader Sahid Flores, who took first prize for his Day of the Dead painting. “I was surprised I was the winner, and I realized I am really good at drawing.”

The first-prize winner in the 2nd/3rd category didn’t have to look any further than her own family for her idea to make a pinata complete with candy.

“I picked a tradition from my family,” said Victoria Penaloza. “We mostly use pinatas at parties like a decoration. It wasn’t really easy, but it wasn’t too hard, either. My mom helped me with the hot glue gun.”

Emiliano Hernandez, a 1st-grader and winner of his age category, created a detailed diorama-style display.

“I wanted to do the Day of the Dead,” he said. “And my mom said I should do it because it is important.”

The students in the bilingual classes also made pinatas, as well as Mexican mirrors and paper cutouts, to use as decoration for the gallery display because these are common in the Hispanic culture.

“There are many traditions,” Victoria said. “And it is fun helping people learn about them.”

Mexican mirrors and paper cutouts decorate the display area.