On an average day at Valley Stream North High School, many students wear jeans and a T-shirt, eat a meal in the cafeteria and learn a few things in class. On March 21, at the school’s fourth annual Culture Fair, those same students did things a bit differently, but ultimately came away with some insights as to where their classmates come from and traditions from around the globe.
North students, parents, teachers and administrators gathered to eat food, look at artwork and watch cultural performances. Eileen Milazzo, a language teacher and advisor to the Languages Other Than English Honor Society, ran the event for the second straight year. She sold about 300 tickets for the fair and said that the school donates half the money it raises from the event to CARE, a charity that fights world hunger.
Principal Cliff Odell said he couldn’t be more proud of North’s student body and faculty during the fair. “One of the greatest strengths in this school is how our entire school community embraces our diversity,” he said, “and to see us be able to celebrate that is amazing.”
Seventh and eighth grade students created posters based on their respective heritages and one poster from each class was chosen to be displayed during the event. Also, students and parents cooked traditional food from their families’ native countries.
Ralph Garcia, a sophomore, was participating in the event for the first time. He and Raquel Hazell did a salsa dance for the hundreds of people in the crowd. Garcia said he and Hazell practiced their dance for a week after school and was expecting a lot of applause when they finished. He liked the idea of bringing the school’s different cultures together for a night of celebration. “It’s a good thing because people get introduced to different cultures, a lot of different foods that they’ve never had before and the dances too,” he said.
President of the LOTE Honor Society, Matt Lueckheide, said he had a good time checking out all of the posters and trying the different foods. “It’s pretty cool to see everyone enjoying themselves and know that I had a part in this,” he said.
Juniors James Mattone and Kristen Ray emceed the event by introducing the different acts before they hit the stage. “I feel that this is definitely amazing how diverse our community is, how we can just come together and produce something that is really amazing,” Mattone said.
Board of Education President Tony Iadevaio said he enjoyed all of the food he tried, including the Greek and Pakistani dishes. “I think this is a wonderful way to show the diversity in the schools,” he said, “and how well our LOTE teachers are working with all the kids.”
Milazzo pointed out that the dozens of students who participated in the event put in all the work after school hours to pull off the event. Also, she said, North houses the district’s English as a Second Language program, so it’s nice for those students to show off their cultures to students who they don’t normally get a chance to interact with. “It’s just a great way to bring everyone together,” she said, “because we are fortunate to have such diversity.”