Oct 15, 2021 - Fry Family YMCA

The butterfly effect: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in the Y’s Out of School Time programs

From September 15 - October 15, families around the nation celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, honoring the contributions of the Hispanic and Latinx diasporas in all fields of human endeavor, as well as the rich diversity of cultures that enrich our community.

Throughout the month, students enrolled in the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago’s Out of School Time (OST) program have observed Hispanic Heritage Month in creative, meaningful ways, learning about Hispanic and Latinx history and culture alongside their friends.

Several of our Association’s OST sites studied monarch butterflies and their significance in Latin American culture. Monarch butterflies migrate from central Mexico to Canada (even passing through Chicago!), and for many, these beautiful creatures serve as a symbol of immigration and resilience.

Led by the Y’s inclusive, knowledgeable staff, OST students colored and cut out paper butterflies, creating designs that represented their lives and where their families migrated to Chicago from.

“It was great for our children that the Y’s after-school program celebrated their heritage,” a parent from Alex Haley Academy’s OST program said. “Often, our culture is overlooked, and for the Y to take the time to teach the students about theirs was truly appreciated.”

Meanwhile, youth at Galileo Scholastic Academy’s OST program made papel picado, a form of Mexican folk art in which crafters cut out intricate patterns from paper sheets. These paper banners are often used to adorn Day of the Dead altars and decorate buildings during times of celebration. Because the paper is so thin, it represents the wind and air.

Other observances included Boone Elementary OST students reading about past and present Hispanic and Latinx luminaries on a bulletin board displayed proudly at their school, and a screening of Disney/Pixar’s Coco at Alex Haley Academy.

Just as monarch butterflies travel together in their journey north, so too do the Y’s OST students as they gain a better understanding of themselves, each other, and the myriad cultures that make the Y family so vibrant. By observing Hispanic Heritage Month in this way, we hope to create a “butterfly effect,” compelling youth to celebrate differences and advocate for cultural awareness wherever they soar next.