Stall High plays host to Latin festival, Quinceanera

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - At Stall High School on Saturday, there was a celebration of Hispanic culture. But more than a festival, it was a symbol of growth in the area for the Latino community.

In 2012, the Hispanic population was 14 percent at Stall. Now it's 21 percent and administrators say they expect those numbers to grow even more in the coming years - possibly to 40 percent by 2020.

But on Saturday, in a small classroom a dozen girls dressed in handmade gowns and prepared for a moment every 15-year-old Latina girl dreams of - a Quinceanera.

"A Quinceanera is like you're going to turn into a woman but you're also going to have more responsibility coming to you. You're growing up. Your parents, you know, there's a bigger bond," said Gabriela Almengor.

Almengor is a graduating senior at Stall.

The Salvadoran native says looking back, she never imagined she would be celebrating her Quinceanera at a school that used to have only a handful of Latinos.

"When I came in as a freshman, it was hard. It was hard, you know, to blend in with the other people," she said.

But that's been changing as she moved ahead with her education. From the food to the Latin flags decorating the campus and the parents cheering on their daughters, Stall High is celebrating its third annual Latin Festival.

"You see everyone around you and you're like, 'Oh, there is someone that looks like me, talks like me, and understands me,'" she said.

The rapid growth of the Latino population at the school has caused principal Kim Wilson to hire some extra help.

"We have two bilingual employees that we hired this year in addition to a bilingual administrator. And then we have a couple bilingual teachers, so we're looking to expand that. We want the Latino community to make this a school for them in addition to the other students who are already here," Wilson said.

Graciela Cook organized the school's festival. She says Hispanics aren't just coming to Stall High School from the local middle schools, but from around the world.

"We have a lot of immigrating people coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua," she said.

Cook says the growth is only going to make the school's Latin festival bigger and better each year.

The growth doesn't end at the festival, either. The school has started its first English as a Second Language classes for parents who don't speak English. The next class is at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 26.

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