GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Southwest Elementary in Grand Rapids kicked off its series of events to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a parade on Thursday.

Sixth grade students carried the flags of 21 Spanish-speaking countries in the parade down the sidewalk near the school. They wore traditional clothing from their cultures.

“I was proud because that way we can see each other’s Hispanic cultures,” sixth grader Anay Lopez said.

“I really liked it. It’s fun because people get to express themselves,” Harrison Johnson, another sixth grader, said.

Southwest Elementary celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month. (Sept. 15, 2022)
Southwest Elementary celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month. (Sept. 15, 2022)

“We want to highlight all the contributions the Hispanic community brings to Southwest and … in Grand Rapids,” Kent School Services Network community school coordinator Teresa Cruz-Vega told News 8 during a live interview Wednesday at 4 p.m.

She said the children, many of whom are Latino, talked Wednesday about traditional ethnic foods and clothes from their families’ countries of origin.

“We had some students talking about what they’re going to wear form Guatemala, from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba. They’re just so excited to highlight the culture and speak the language,” Cruz-Vega said, noting that Southwest is a Spanish immersion school and all its students are bilingual.

Southwest Elementary Assistant Principal Kelly Aponte said the school has organized activities for every day of Hispanic Heritage Month, including assemblies and guest speakers on immigration. At the end, students will show off their research and projects from the month.

News 8 is also celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with a number of reports leading up to a special half-hour program airing at 7 p.m. Oct. 8. Hispanic Heritage Month begins Thursday and runs through Oct. 15.

—News 8’s Gabrielle Phifer contributed to this report.