Students studied historic figures and performed musical tributes.

Rio Vista Elementary School students gathered this week with parents and faculty for a celebration of music, art and oration to honor significant African Americans, as Black History Month comes to a close.

Students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grades recited stories they had written and performed songs in honor of figures they had studied in class. Each performance ended with a call to “Take a stand!” to which the audience responded, “Use your voice!”

“The ‘Take s Stand’ narrative is something that evolved from our strong parent community in collaboration with our teachers,” Principal Pia Sadaqatma said. “It began earlier this year during Latino Heritage Month, and has been a common thread running through a number of events promoting multiculturalism on our campus.”

Instructional coach Kennida Terezon, who helped to organize the event, explained its alignment to the school’s curriculum, which is designed to promote social justice.

“This was about more than just entertaining our families,” she said. “It represents a culmination of activities that integrate all of the disciplines – history, literacy and the arts – to provide an enriching and educational experience.”


Click the image to hear an excerpt of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” performed by the Rio Vista Choir.


Every Rio Vista student has the opportunity to read Ron’s Big Mission, which is based on the life of African-American physicist and astronaut Ron McNair. At age 9, he refused to leave a racially segregated public library until he was allowed to check out books.

“The music elevates students’ understanding of how historical figures felt at various points in history,” Terezon said. “It also enables them to articulate these messages clearly to their family and community members.”

Fifth-grader Bryce Armstrong echoed her sentiment.

Future Rio Vista student three-year-old Christian Sanders joined his father, Walter, to cheer on his sister Savannah, who performed with her kindergarten class for the Rio Vista community.

“The show was inspiring and uplifting for our African-American community,” she said. “Learning about different leaders who took a stand makes me believe that anything is possible.”

Based on feedback from educators and parents, Sadaqatmal deemed the event to be a success.

“Our activities allow our teachers to take their craft to a deeper level, and it showed,” she said. “Many parents came up to me after the event and said that not only was it an enjoyable morning, they had learned new things about facets of Black history. It was an amazingly positive and enlightening experience for everyone involved.”

Walter Sanders, father of kindergartner Savannah Sanders, took time off work to join the celebration.

“It was worth it,” he said. “It makes such a difference when we stand side by side with their teachers to share positive messages about what our ancestors contributed to the history of this great country.”

The school is already making plans for a spring concert on May 18 that will feature food and traditions from different cultures. The public is welcome.