Spanish Club crosses cultural boundaries


Courtesy of Sam Offut

Spanish club members watch as a piñata is hit during their first meeting. The club hopes to expose students to the traditions of Hispanic culture.

Emma Young

The courtyard fills with the sound of students cheering and hitting a piñata, marking the first meeting of Midtown’s Spanish Club.

Seniors Neisha Ball and Paola Fernandez Chiu formed the Spanish Club at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year and had their first meetings and events in the fall of 2022. The club focuses on exposing students to Spanish culture and traditions.

“We always wondered why there was no Spanish Club at our school, and since we both love the language and culture, we just decided to do it ourselves,” Ball said. “We wanted to spread awareness about Hispanic culture. I’m not Hispanic myself but I still have so much fun because we focus on making things fun and inclusive.”

Fernandez Chiu attended North Gwinnett High School before she transferred to Midtown her junior year. When she lived in Gwinnett, she joined HoPe, the Hispanic Organization Promoting Education, to meet other Hispanic students in the Georgia area. Midtown didn’t have an organization like that, so Fernandez Chiu and Ball were inspired to start a similar club. 

“When I switched to Midtown, I took a gifted mentorship class, and I had Ms. Ortegon as my teacher,” Fernandez Chiu said. “We realized that we couldn’t create a HoPe club because we did not have a large enough Latinx population, so I set out to start a Spanish club. I talked to Neisha about it and she was just as excited about starting it, so we filled out all the paperwork and started the Spanish club at the beginning of our senior year.”

So far, the club has hosted many events, including a trip to Plaza Fiesta for Dia de los Muertos. For the upcoming semester, they plan to host more activities and expand their club to include more underclassmen. 

“This semester we have lots of activities planned such as movies, trivia, potlucks with Hispanic food and another trip to Plaza Fiesta,” Ball said. “We hope that some underclassmen and juniors step up to the challenge of leadership so our club can be sustained next year.”

The main goal of the club is to promote cultural unity and acceptance of other traditions and customs. It exposes students to new experiences that they would otherwise not have access to.

“I think that the most important task of the Spanish club is to create an understanding of Spanish culture,” Spanish teacher and club sponsor, Liliana Ortegon, said. “Also, it unites students with similar interests and students who want to know and explore a different culture.”

Fernandez Chiu’s background has also helped influence the goals of the club.

“I am both Spanish and Mexican, so I have really enjoyed showing the members parts of both cultures,” Fernandez Chiu said. “I’ve noticed that a lot of people have these stereotypes about the Latinx population and Hispanic countries and we want to expose people to the beautiful traditions of these countries and people.”

The club hosts meetings the last Thursday of every month, where they do different educational activities, which Ball, Fernandez and Ortegon work together to plan. 

“I have been to a majority of the activities, and I definitely think going to Plaza Fiesta for a field trip was my favorite,” sophomore Kiera Ball said. “I really enjoyed the energy there and being able to learn about different cultures.”

Other members enjoy the community and friendships with other club members that the club provides.

“My favorite part about Spanish Club is the other members of the club,” junior Dylan Haman said. “Everyone is very respectful and all around enjoyable.”

Ball and Fernandez are working to expand club membership, so it will continue to grow and be active after they graduate. 

“We are very close with the junior and underclassmen members and we have seen how passionate some of them are for it,” Fernandez Chiu said. “One of our members, Timmy, is a junior and has helped us plan all of our meetings and events, and we know that he is determined to continue the club next year.”

Although Ball and Fernandez Chiu graduate this year, they hope the club will continue to help students explore Hispanic traditions and customs. 

“It is so important to teach others about the world and about these countries because they have so much to offer,” Fernandez Chiu said. “There are many cultural differences between these Hispanic countries and America and we think everyone needs to be exposed to these cultures and learn things from them.”

Ortegon hopes that the club allows students to experience Hispanic culture, which is more important now because of the expanding population of Hispanic people in the United States.

“All cultures are unique,” Ortegon said. “All cultures have traditions that enrich other cultures. Hispanic people and their culture happen to be a large and growing portion of the US population, therefore it is important we understand the culture and way of living. But not with the intention of changing one another, but with the intention of enriching our lives.”