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Joliet Central hosts Kermes Celebration

Food, dancing and live entertainment drew crowds from across the community to turn out April 19 to take part in Joliet Central High School’s third annual Kermes Celebration.

The event, by design, aimed to promote diversity and cultural understanding in the community.

“We wanted to invite the whole community to send a message to the community that Joliet Central loves [everyone], that we receive them,” said Jeff Grimes, a committee member for this year’s celebration. “We want [everyone] to feel at home.”

The Kermes Celebration was started at Joliet Central three years ago in response to a donation of a portrait of Cesar Chavez, a civil rights activist and labor leader. Around that time, a group of people decided that it wanted to present this to the community.

“We had music, and we had community organizations coming and talking about what they do,” Grimes said. “It evolved into this. The spirit of the whole Kermes [Celebration] was to transform Joliet by embracing the people that live in Joliet. This is who we are, we want to embrace and we want to embrace this community.”

Community organizations on hand for the event manned booths to engage and inform students of what’s available to them at Joliet Central High School and in the community. Among those in attendance included representatives for the Boys & Girls Club of Joliet, Joliet Junior College, University of St. Francis and Aurora University.

“Being a highly low-income minority school, we want to make sure parents can ask questions,” said Aseneth Ruiz, another committee member for this year’s event, noting that it is Joliet Central’s desire to make sure all parents have a chance to help their children succeed.

During the Kermes Celebration, people enjoyed an array of ethnic foods, including tacos, paletas and elotes.

“We want to showcase diversity,” Ruiz said, noting they always want to reach out to the community, whether it’s through food or music.

Grimes agreed.

“It doesn’t matter what you look like, this community is part of your identity,” Grimes said.

Throughout the Kermes Celebration, a number of ethnic dances and live entertainment was showcased.

“I want everyone in our community to always feel welcome in our school,” said Colleen Seneker, another committee member for this year’s event.

Grimes agreed.

“If you don’t feel embraced by the public spaces in your community, how can you thrive?” he said. “Every community that’s thriving, the people in that community feel embraced, accepted and loved for who they are.”

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