Returning club unites students



Julio Batres proudly holds a student-created poster for the El latino club at CHHS.

Lee esta historia en español aqui!

After three years without a Club Latino (or Spanish Club, as it used to be called) at Columbia Heights High School (CHHS), Spanish Teacher Mr. Julio Batres was determined to kickstart the group again. 

El Club Latino at CHHS recently began uniting countless Latinx students once again to have a place to socialize and have fun while still learning about various cultural traditions in Latin America. In fact, Batres usually lifts his students’ spirits at the start of each meeting by turning on bachata, salsa and corridos, offering upbeat vibes and giving students the energy to get up and dance. 

If students are feeling a bit more relaxed and want to slow dance with friends, romantic ballads are the perfect music to put on, but it completely depends on the mood of the room, as Batres encourages students to recommend songs they want to dance to. He also enjoys speaking about and playing soccer with any fútbol fanatics interested in having a space to argue about who’s the real G.O.A.T. or scrimmage without the worry of ability or competition. At the same time, Batres also makes sure to help out with any Spanish homework students are struggling with. 

El Club Latino fits well into CHHS’s mission to be as inclusive of a school as possible for its diverse student population. Transitioning from a place that’s considered home filled with daily cultural practices and familiarity to a place that can so easily alienate the average immigrant teenager from a significant part of their identity can be a difficult transition, to say the least. Not knowing how to communicate what you feel, need, or think with your peers can come across as very restrictive and unwelcoming. Students whose families come from outside the U.S. need all the support and familiarity they can get, and Batres’s Club Latino can act as a source of refuge. 

“Tener un club latino en la escuela es una necesidad social, cultural y académica porque el porcentaje de estudiantes que hablan español ya casi llega o sobrepasa el 80%,” Batres said. (English translation: “Having a Club Latino in the school is a social, cultural and academic necessity because the percentage of students who speak Spanish is almost or exceeds 80%.”)

As someone who traveled to the U.S. at a young age without knowing any English or having any knowledge of the culture in America, it was definitely hard to communicate with others around me. Being included made me feel more comfortable, but I still didn’t know how to act around my new classmates due to language and cultural barriers. The harsh feeling of knowing that if I do anything out of the ordinary, I would begin to be judged. If I had the opportunity to join a Club Latino when I first arrived in 2015, I would have felt a lot more ease maintaining roots to my own culture while adjusting to a new one. 

Allowing students to have a place where they can learn about cultures and even experience some of each other’s cultural traditions can help bring them even closer to each other. Learning about different cultures can also allow students and teachers to help new students and incoming freshmen feel like they can be themselves and even help familiarize immigrant teens with the culture of the U.S. This is the reason why Batres continuously encourages students to attend el Club Latino. It’s also just another place to connect with a teacher and get advice on navigating schoolwork.

 “I did a lot of work, and he also helped me with things I had to do [for spanish class],” Tifany Romero (11) said. “If you don’t have time to speak to him personally [during class], you can have time there.” 

While it may be called el Club Latino, anyone and everyone is welcome and encouraged  to come every Wednesday after school in room 284 to the meetings at 3:30. Come be part of the school’s Latinx community and learn about your peers’ culture and share your own. Listen to wonderful music and feel free to get up, dance with friends or just get some homework done in a welcoming setting. The most important thing is to have a good time!