LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The library at Hawthorne Elementary School in Louisville was filled with community members of all kinds for a special Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. Most were speaking Spanish as they stood up to introduce themselves to others in the room.

They hold all kinds of different occupations. They are from several different countries. The one thing they all have in common is their desire to keep Hispanic heritage alive in Louisville.

What You Need To Know

  • Hawthorne Elementary School has a Spanish Immersion Program

  • Students learn in both English and Spanish

  • About half of Hawthorne’s students are of Hispanic/LatinX descent

  • Next year, it will become a magnet, making it accessible to more families

Family Resource Coordinator Elvira Paguada-Gutierrez helped plan this special day. She explains why it was so important to bring these people in to speak to students.

“I grew up in California, a child of immigrants from Honduras. I was the first in my family to go to college. I am where I am supposed to be. I didn’t grow up with people who looked like me. It’s very exciting to be here and bring that to kiddos,” said Paguada-Gutierrez.

At Hawthorne Elementary in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), Hispanic heritage is so much more than a month of recognition. It’s embodied every day.

Hawthorne is a Spanish Immersion Program, meaning students get lessons in both Spanish and English. Paguada-Gutierrez said it was a main reason she sent her daughter to school there.

“My kiddo being born here in Kentucky, my husband and I, we speak both, but we tend to lean more on English. It was really important for my own kiddo to come to this school, so she could be exposed to our native tongue and not lose that,” said Paguada-Gutierrez. 

She said about half of Hawthorne’s students are of Hispanic / LatinX descent. It was something one of the Hispanic Heritage Month guest speakers, Louis David Fuentes, was happy to see.

“I just came from a class that I would say 60% of the kids were from Hispanic heritage. What a blessing being here in Louisville and being around how many kids were from our roots,” said Fuentes.

He is the publisher and editor of El Kentubano, a free publication for the local Hispanic community. Fuentes was happy to be asked to come to Hawthorne to speak to students. He gave them a presentation about his native country, Cuba.

“It’s been a pleasure to be here with the kids and tell them about the huge Cuban American and Hispanic community we have here in town,” said Fuentes.

He moved to Kentucky 22 years ago, and is blown away by how much more Hispanic representation there is here now.

“It’s completely different than at that time. Now you can see how many Mexican or Cuban flags are everywhere, how many Cuban restaurants, how many Hispanic grocery stores,” said Fuentes.

Paguada-Gutierrez said Hawthorne is a shining example of that.

“Speaking from experience from my own mom, it’s important for your kiddos to attend a school where you can communicate with your teachers, with the office staff and with the administration. I know that. I’ve been translating and interpreting for my mom since I can remember. I still remember her social security number because I was the one doing all of that. It’s so important because parents have that sense of community,” said Paguada-Gutierrez.

By providing language inclusivity, Hawthorne is creating a space where everyone is welcome and all cultures are valued. Soon, it could become accessible to more families.

Hawthorne currently has a Spanish Immersion Program. Anyone in the district can send their kids here, but they must provide their own transportation. Next year, it will become a magnet. That will allow families to send their kids there without worrying about finding transportation.

It’s something administrators and guests alike celebrated, as it will open up the program to even more families.