MERIDEN — Walking into a school building at 7 a.m. might not be the most fun thing for some students, but at Platt High School, when students enter the lobby, they are welcomed by a DJ playing upbeat Spanish music and a colorful mural highlighting Hispanic culture.
There are also t-shirts and raffles with Hispanic-themed items like water bottles. It is all part of the school’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed from Sept.15 to Oct.15.
Nadine Rosa, special education teacher at Platt, said it is a tradition for her to celebrate Hispanic heritage in her classroom. This year, however, she had the idea of having Hispanic heritage festivities on a larger scale.
“Hispanic Heritage is very near and dear to me because I am Puerto Rican,” she said.
One of the reasons Rosa wanted expand the celebration is the school’s makeup, she said. About 578 of 1,119 students at Platt are Hispanic.
“I definitely wanted my students to know that they are not invisible, that we are here, we are growing, we need to be proud of who we are and express that,” Rosa said.
The students created the mural, which has various posters.
The idea was to have a combination of posters highlighting Hispanic leaders or artists. Students made posters of locals such as Meriden native Miguel Cardona, who now serves as U.S. education secretary. Prominent artists like Pablo Picasso, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jennifer Lopez and Selena Quintanilla are also highlighted.
Items that are traditional to Hispanic culture — a can of Cafe Bustelo, a stovetop espresso brewer, an aluminum pot, a wood mortar and pestle, boxing gloves, maracas and more — are displayed below the mural. Latin American flags are also part of the display.
The t-shirts were designed by Rosa, this year’s teacher of the year at Platt and donated by Justin Mitchell, founder of Ball Headz, an organization that mentors students and athletes.
Rosa said the music at the start of the school day and during lunch encourages students and staff to hang out in the lobby and sometimes dance.
Books by Hispanic authors are also being offered at the school’s media center.
Sophomore Alexander Rocha, who has Mexican roots, said hearing Spanish music played at school made him feel “happy” and “at home.” He is also proud others are learning about his culture.
Freshman Tristyn Ruiz said the celebration is a nice way to start his high school experience and makes him feel welcome at Platt.
“I’m thrilled that we are able to do this and to really highlight our students,” said Lysette Torres, director of equity and instruction for Meriden Public Schools.