WCSD schools recognize culture, diversity with celebration events

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Throughout the week, several Westerville schools hosted events that celebrated the many countries and cultures of their students. 

On Tuesday, the staff at Huber Ridge and Pointview elementaries organized cultural nights where families and students could sample food, play instruments, watch demonstrations and learn more about a variety of countries and cultures.

At Westerville Central High School, students from more than 20 countries created displays for the school’s Culture Day on Wednesday, giving their peers a glimpse of what they are most proud of from their country.

“It was a great opportunity for our (English Learner) students to celebrate themselves, their culture and also for many of them, it was a great opportunity to learn things about their country that they didn’t know,” said Amy Eyerman, an EL teacher at WCHS.

Since November, Westerville schools have organized various events to celebrate the different cultures in their buildings. Cherrington, Hanby and Mark Twain, for instance, have opened their doors to families for culture nights after school. Other buildings are planning similar celebrations in the coming weeks for their school community.

Pointview staff organized Tuesday’s event, where students and their families could visit classrooms dedicated to different countries. They sampled Irish beef stew, popular Somali dishes and Peruvian candy. They watched a demo from a student’s grandmother who is a Tai Chi master. 

At Huber Ridge, students and families explored games, activities and interactive dances from Brazilian, Australian, Mexican and African cultures. Fifth-grade students sang songs and played instruments that represented African cultures. 

“The hope is for students to recognize the beauty and strength of our diverse world and their personal cultural background,” Huber Ridge Principal Sheri Chaffin said.

During WCHS’ Culture Day, trifolds packed with details about countries such as Honduras, Ghana, Brazil and Malaysia lined tables in the auxiliary gym. Throughout the day, students visited the space during English class as part of an assignment to learn more about their peers’ native countries. The displays covered a variety of topics, including religion, culture, foods, famous places to visit, geography and languages.

“It highlights specific cultures and countries but also it gives the kids an opportunity to see how really there are so many things that unite us,” Eyerman said. “It’s also an opportunity to dispel different misconceptions.”

For senior Mariam Melikishvili, an exchange student from Georgia, it was a chance to introduce students to her home country in Eastern Europe. Her display featured details about Georgian culture, from its dances to politics. She highlighted not-commonly-known facts such as Georgia is the birthplace of wine and that 20% of the country is occupied by Russia. 

She also invited those visiting her display to write their name using the Georgian alphabet and challenged them to a tongue twister in Georgian.

“I wanted to make people aware about the country of Georgia,” she said. “We are very small but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own culture or own language. We are more than we seem.”