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Josephine Cioffero On How Her Elementary School Celebrated Her Hyphens

Schoolkids in a classroom (Photo via Unsplash)

Josephine Cioffero loves to think about the past. Not because she wishes to return but because Cioffero loves to reflect on the person she used to be and her journey to where she is today.

Image courtesy Josephine Cioferro
Image courtesy Josephine Cioferro

A COMMUNITY THAT CELEBRATES DIVERSITY

Cioffero says she was fortunate to grow up in a community that celebrated diversity, “which I now realize is not the norm when it comes to multiculturalism.”

Every year, her elementary school hosted the Multicultural Fair, where students grade K-5 created art, performed in chorus and toured the school’s exhibits to celebrate their heritage.

Cioffero’s mom also loves to reminisce, meaning she has kept every school project her daughter has ever created in a neat little box in a closet.

Inside this box is the cutout of a person, which five-year-old Cioffero decked out in green and gold in honor of her Irish heritage for her kindergarten Multicultural Fair. Accompanied by this masterpiece is a pie chart dividing her various ethnicities into slices.

Nowadays, Cioffero wonders why she didn’t illuminate her Mexican heritage when it makes up so much of her background.

Image courtesy Josephine Cioferro
Image courtesy Josephine Cioferro

“Sure, at first glance, I don’t look like the typical Latina, and I always hear the comment ‘I never would have guessed!’ when I tell people,” she says.

THE BEAUTY OF HIDDEN DIVERSITY

Cioffero thinks that is where the beauty of hidden diversity comes into play in her life.

“Multiculturalism should not have to fit a mold or a formula, or else it would not be multiculturalism,” she says, counting herself fortunate to be so aware of her diverse background and have the platform to embrace it.

As she progressed through middle and high school, Cioffero says she noticed a lack of emphasis on diversity within her schools. The Multicultural Fairs disappeared, and her peers received heavy pushback against their efforts to establish the Multicultural Student Union at her high school.

At first glance, I don’t look like the typical Latina, and I always hear the comment, ‘I never would have guessed!’ when I tell people.

“I question how our celebration of diversity got lost in my progression through school despite its impact on me growing up, but I believe our generation has the power to shift this attitude,” she says.

Cioffero adds that she looks back, thinking “about how excited five-year-old me was to create my Irish masterpiece and use this energy to embrace my beautiful, hidden and authentic diversity.”

Schoolkids in a classroom (Photo via Unsplash)
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash
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