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Growing the Latinx Legacy at Winsor during Hispanic Heritage Month

Winsor honors Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15–October 15) across campus, and this year was bigger than ever thanks in large part to the hard work of Winsor alum and school counselor Ms. M, Maia Monteagudo ’06.

Last year, SOMOS—the Upper School affinity group for Latinx students—discovered there was no documentation or saved history of the affinity group in the archives. This realization ignited the club’s “Latinx Legacy at Winsor” campaign during the 2022–2023 school year. The result was both a moving assembly with a panel of Latinx Winsor alums as well as the inaugural affinity group workshop during Alumnae Weekend. And now for the 2023–2024 school year, a joint effort between SOMOS, Ms. M., and Director for Community and Inclusion Julian Braxton ensured there would be space to fully acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month on campus. 

Ms. M. singlehandedly spearheaded a robust collaboration between academic departments. At her urging, multiple departments worked collaboratively to share Hispanic and Latinx innovators who not only embody Winsor values but also celebrate the diversity within these communities. Lists of athletes (Athletics Department), performers (Performing Arts Department), artists (Visual Arts Department), and writers (English Department) were created by departments with short bios and photos, then shared with students in multiple ways. Ms. M designed their lists with colorful flowers and scrollwork, students and faculty printed and hung them for all to see. 

“The Athletics Department display by their office was of their own creation and solidarity” pointed out Ms. M. 

The Communications Department created accompanying graphics so that the lists could be looped on the digital displays around the school for guests, students, faculty, and staff to see throughout the day. For each week of Hispanic Heritage Month, Head of Upper School Kimberly Ramos featured a new department list alongside the regular campus updates.

“I want to highlight that all I did was ask these departments to engage when they could and without hesitation everyone stepped up to the plate,” shared Ms. M. “We have an incredible community who will answer the call time and time again.”

On October 5, SOMOS, hosted their second annual assembly. A student-run presentation about Hispanic Heritage Month provided the audience with vocabulary and touched on the history of the national holiday before club leaders introduced Dr. Mariana Matus, the featured guest speaker and CEO startup trailblazer. With a doctorate in computational biology, Dr. Matus explained how a childhood love of science blossomed into a successful career, and how education became an avenue of social mobility.

“At 10 or 12, I always loved science,” she said. “Math, chemistry, and biology were my favorite subjects. I didn’t know you could have a career based on your love of science.” The first year of her PhD, all her experiments failed. But Dr. Matus was determined and reminded students, “Sometimes only you think something is a good idea, and it’s important to keep pushing.”

It wasn’t long before she met her partner, an architect, and together they went on to cofound BioBot securing over $40 million in venture capital funding. Today, BioBot uses robots to collect wastewater from sewers and has developed ways of testing sewage in the lab to identify a community’s prevalence of pathogens such as COVID-19, the flu, and RSV, as well as drugs like fentanyl, which are driving the opioid crisis. Data is shared with public health experts like the CDC.

SOMOS ended the assembly with a dance lesson that brought the crowd to their feet. “You have hips for a reason,” said Mia Gonzalez ’26, as she along with other SOMOS members taught the basic bachata step and encouraged people to sway and step. With a cue to the sound booth, music erupted from the speakers. Shouts of “grab a partner!” and “come to the stage!” got everyone moving. The stage was packed with students dancing together, spinning their partner, and jumping with hands raised high.

On October 11, SISTERS/SOMOS, the Lower School affinity group for Black and Latinx students, asked Ms. M. to give a mini presentation on Hispanic Heritage Month. She also  supported two activities—making Incan textiles and Guatemalan worry dolls.

All month long, Chef Heather celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month in the dining room. Kicking things off with National Quesadilla Day on September 25, she also shared rich food traditions from El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, and Colombia. From arepas (corn patties) to frijoles (beans), she took students on a culinary adventure and created space for the community to try new things.

All the media—the lists created by departments, the flyers created by the student groups—will be added to the Winsor archives to document the vibrant Latinx community at Winsor.