Hundreds of kids bubbled with excitement in the halls of Dixon Middle School Friday night, bearing toothy grins and chatting amongst themselves. The line to get into the multi-purpose room filled the maze-like halls of the school.
Centro Hispano, a non-profit organization whose mission is to “orient and mentor immigrant families in Utah County,” held their fourth annual celebration in Provo honoring the visitation of the three kings to the baby Jesus. El Dia de los Reyes Magos, also known as Three Kings Day, is a Christian holiday that has become entrenched in Latin American tradition.
Typically, the holiday is celebrated with family gatherings, food and sharing of gifts. There was certainly a lot of that going on at this particular celebration, with different folk dances, popcorn, games and traditional holiday bread called Rosca de Reyes. But food and festivities were not the only offerings.
Centro Hispano has programs giving immigrants a wide range of assistance, including education on health, finance, education, taxes and language.
Courtney Cottrell, in her last year at BYU, has been working for Centro Hispano for three months. Cottrell talked with parents and children at the event about how to deal with issues like drugs and alcohol in a society and culture that is very foreign from their own.
“I’ve learned so much,” Cottrell said. “You kind of touch every aspect of life.”
As kids ran from booth to booth, playing games trying to win candy and prizes, parents picked up pamphlets about taxes and even got tested for diabetes and high blood pressure.
The BYU Nursing program sponsored a table where nursing students focused on health care, talking about the risks of high blood pressure and diabetes. Lacey King, a nursing student at BYU, wore blue rubber gloves as she pricked fingers and ran blood sugar tests.
“I love being able to see them understand their own health, and realize it’s something they can control,” King said.
In the spirit of the holiday, Centro Hispano provided 270 pairs of shoes to children from families suffering financial hardships.
Centro Hispano has served the Latin American and other immigrant communities in Utah County for more than eight years. They look forward to continuing their tradition of building bridges to span the cultural and social gaps, providing education and resources that will strengthen immigrant families and enable them to contribute to the local community.
By Jeff Jacobsen – Online Content Manager