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Celebrating Their Roots

Many ENL students now studying in Sleepy Hollow High School left family and friends behind when they journeyed to America to start a new life. Assimilating into a new culture hasn’t always been easy.

“They think we are not intelligent because we don’t know English,” said Keyri Yance, a junior who emigrated from Ecuador.

Her friend Nicole Urbina agreed. “I don’t know anyone, and it is difficult making friends.” Urbina, also a junior, left Chile three years ago.

These students and about a dozen others have formed new bonds with the assistance of musicians Pablo and Anna Mayor of Folklore Urbano NYC and their “Cumbia for All” educational program in partnership with dancer and choreographer Daniel Fetecua. Folklore Urbano NYC’s Cumbia for Kids/Cumbia for All program has been spreading the rich history of Latin American music and culture to school groups and the community at large all over the New York City area for over a decade.

For nearly two months, the SHHS students have been learning more about their roots by looking at the music and dance traditions of Latin America. An Arts Alive grant awarded to Pablo Mayor (made possible from funds from the Decentralization Program, a re-grant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NYS Legislature and administrated by ArtsWestchester), and The Foundation for the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns.

“We want to highlight where these students came from and use this to support the new things they learn here,” said Daniel Fetecua, Co-Artistic Director of Cumbia for All, “and to help them move forward with new tools.”

On Thursday, November 15, the students performed traditional and original songs and original choreographies accompanied by professional NYC-based artists.

One song, “Yo Recuerdo” which means “I Remember” recounts the students’ memories like the tastes of traditional foods, the sounds of the seashore or the beauty of the flowers of their native land. 

“Cuando Yo Llegue” or “I Arrived” speaks to the mixed emotions of sadness and anticipation leaving the familiar behind.

 “We want Sleepy Hollow High School to celebrate its richly diverse student body by creating an understanding among one another, learning not only to respect these differences, but ultimately to embrace them,” said Cumbia for All Director Anna Povich de Mayor.

“Immigrants are often marginalized in our society today and we want to show the student body that they have value and that each student at SHHS has a rich history and a profound story. We want their classmates to see them and understand their challenges.”