SEBRING - The month ended with a flare of color and music at Sebring High School on Thursday as dozens of students participated in the school's first parade to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
The parade/march started at the school's bus loop with Principal Anne Lindsay leading the way in a golf cart. It then proceeded around the parent pickup/parking lot loop.
Starting around 2 p.m. with about 70 participants, the parade had few spectators initially. But when it returned to the bus loop more than 100 students, who were changing classes, lined the sidewalk to watch the parade.
Sebring High Spanish teacher Sonia Rivera said the parade included about 33 students from the Spanish club, about 45 students who are currently taking Spanish classes and a few other students.
Rivera said this year they decided to name two pairs of kings and queens for Hispanic Heritage Month, a king and queen from a Hispanic background and also a king and queen from other cultures.
The king and queen from the other cultures shows that if they can speak Spanish other students can also learn the language, she said.
The Hispanic king and queen were Jael Rivera and Lissette Moran, respectively.
The king and queen from other cultures were Giovanni Jenkins and Thi Tran, respectively.
The teachers selected the kings and queens based on academics and leadership.
The marchers, country flag bearers and golf carts carrying the kings and queens moved along to the beat of a car's sound system, which played up tempo Spanish music.
Elda Sanchez came to watch the parade to see her two daughters, Ashley and Monica, who were representing Puerto Rico.
Her daughters wore bandanas and shirts that said "Puerto Rico" and carried the Puerto Rican flag.
"It's beautiful; It's nice that they are doing that to represent the Hispanics," Sanchez commented about the event.
Rivera noted this is the first time Sebring High has had a Spanish club, which meets twice a month.
According to the Oct. 12 enrollment data, Sebring High has 370 Hispanic students, which is 23 percent of the school's total enrollment of 1,613.
Technically National Hispanic Heritage Month doesn't fall completely in the month of October.
It is observed Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 to celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America, according to the website hispanicheritagemonth.gov.
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period.
The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively, the HHM website notes.