Creekside hosts international celebration of diversity

February 11, 2013

By Lillian O'Rorke

New: Feb. 11, 1:48 p.m.

Hola, Hallo, Salam, Dia dhuit, An-nyung and Alo are all ways to say ‘hello,’ and as children made their way around the 34 different booths Feb. 8 at Creekside Elementary School’s cultural fair, they learned greetings from around the globe.

“I think it’s very well done and very well thought out. And, it’s very fun to be in,” said Anthony Berlongieri, who attends fourth grade at Creekside.

During the cultural fair at Creekside Elementary School, children put on different performances to showcase their heritage.  Photo by Lillian O'Rorke

During the cultural fair at Creekside Elementary School, children put on different performances to showcase their heritage. Photo by Lillian O’Rorke

His own family can trace its roots back to many places, including Italy, Poland, Ireland, Scotland and Germany, but that night the 9-year-old was busy learning about his classmates’ heritage. He perused booth after booth, practicing saying ‘hello’ in the native tongue, sampling different delicacies and collecting stickers for his passport.

This year’s theme for Creekside’s third annual cultural fair was “Explore the World.” Only, students and their families didn’t need to pack or stand in long customs lines. Instead, the children were given blank passports as they entered their school’s multipurpose room, which was filled with a myriad of different food, music and textiles from around the world. As the students made their way from table to table, they earned stamps for their passports by saying ‘hello’ in various dialects.

“It’s really nice to see the kids speaking another language,” said Irma Villamil, who’s son is in fourth grade at Creekside. Villamil is originally from Mexico and has created a booth every year to represent her family’s customs

“For me, it’s really nice to share everything,” she said. “I think it’s important too, to be proud of your culture. They are really proud of America, because they are American, but for us, for the moms and the fathers and the parents, we are really proud of everything.”

When Villamil first took part in the fair three years ago, hers was one of seven countries that were represented. The next year, 20 families set up booths, and this year the number of cultures represented expanded to 34, with new additions like Israel, Iran, Scotland, Croatia, South Africa and even Minnesota.

“People were really great to step up and want to come,” said Ghada Madkour, who moved to the United States from Egypt 12 years ago. Taking the helm this year, Madkour lead the PTSA–sponsored event and expanded the event to include states. “I just wanted everyone to be here. It’s a cultural fair.”

The number of booths wasn’t the only thing that increased. Last year, the event handed out 150 passports. This year organizers ran out of the 200 passports that had been printed and said they could have easily used 100 more.

“The kids really like it. They like seeing their heritage celebrated,” said Madkour. “There are so many people in this area that we live in, from everywhere. And, the kids get the chance to just be themselves for the day, and wear their costumes or their outfits and showcase their food. …It’s just a chance for them to really be proud of whatever they are and where they’re from and let us know where it is.”

Leading up the event, different students with different cultural backgrounds would make the morning’s announcements. Over the school’s intercom they’d say hello in their family’s native language, tell the students a fact – like that toilet paper was invented in China – and invite everyone to the cultural fair.

“Since students were making the announcements, I think their energy also gets other kids excited about it,” Robin Earl, Creekside’s principal said. “They learn from each other…that’s what I think our whole global community needs to do, learn from each other and support each other.”

Earl explained that at Creekside the students are studying the seven habits of highly effective people and the cultural fair compliments it well.

“To me, learning about each other’s cultures and having more understanding – that’s kind of the same philosophy,” she said. “My favorite is just kneeling down next to a child and saying ‘teach me about your culture’ and having them share about their family life and their personal life.”

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