Junior Gabriel Zuniga presents his Spanish project on Costa Rica Sept. 25 at Papillion-La Vista High School.

Papillion-La Vista High School students learn more than conjugation and verb tense in Joslyn Darling’s Spanish class. They also learn to appreciate where they come from.

To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs through Oct. 15, Darling required her students to explore their multiculturalism through a presentation project.

For the project, students focused on a family member and the country they’re from. From there, they chose three elements to expand on such as food, music or art and compared it to other traditions their classmates have.

“It’s a chance for them to show off, share and really appreciate what they have,” Darling said. “It’s the chance to dig deeper and learn about themselves.”

Students also designed a flag they felt best represents them, which Darling said is her favorite part.

“The flags give them the chance to reflect and create their own culture,” she said.

While it isn’t always easy to give a presentation in a second language, Darling said students have fun.

“It’s really cool to see them go from ‘I don’t want to do this project. I don’t want to talk in front of the class,’ to being really proud of what they came from,” she said. “This class is really about giving students a voice and a chance to explore culture.”

Ninth grader Karla Angel said she was excited to share her Mexican heritage to the class. Her family is from Veracruz and Halisco.

“There are a lot of cultures and even though it’s Mexico, a lot of parts are very different. It’s not all the same,” Angel said. “Not only did I get to tell other people about my region, but I also got to learn about other regions from Mexico.”

The project, Angel said, helped her understand the importance of embracing one’s culture.

“A lot of people don’t take in their culture. I’m really proud to be Mexican because it’s something different from the United States and you kind of stand out,” she said.

Through this project, 11th grader Gabriel Zuniga had the opportunity to share his Costa Rican heritage with his peers.

“My favorite part was getting to present and talk about my country to other people in the class,” he said.

Zuniga said he learned a lot about Costa Rica, including the rich biodiversity.

“I learned more about my culture. It’s very different from here,” he said. “It’s important to explore culture because people should get to know their culture more and be truly proud of where they are from.”

By assigning this project, Darling said she hoped to make students aware of different cultures and encourage them to expand their knowledge on their own.

“Diversity and inclusion is a benefit,” she said. “It enriches all of us.”

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