International Day celebrates diversity

Students+of+all+ages+perform+a+traditional+Indian+song+together+%28Carly+Albert%2FTalon%29.
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International Day celebrates diversity

Students of all ages perform a traditional Indian song together (Carly Albert/Talon).

Students of all ages perform a traditional Indian song together (Carly Albert/Talon).

Students of all ages perform a traditional Indian song together (Carly Albert/Talon).

Students of all ages perform a traditional Indian song together (Carly Albert/Talon).

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Sixty performers. Twelve countries. Five schools. One unified community.

On Feb. 28, 2015, Oak Park came together to showcase the diversity of its students, families and faculty in an evening of festivities and performances at the first annual district-wide International Festival, held at Oak Park High School.

This year the board decided to combine the annual International Day, held at Medea Creek Middle School, and the International Gala, held at Oak Park High School, and turn the two into the International Festival to bring the schools and families of the district closer together.

This year 12 countries were represented; Poland, Sweden, Iran, Israel, China, Brazil, India, Russia, Greece, Peru, Germany and France.

“We put out a few ads asking if anyone would be willing to share their culture with us and these were the wonderful people that responded,” Angela Wells, one of the coordinators of the event, said. “We have been planning this since October. This is the first time that it’s a district-wide event. It’s very exciting.”

Of the 12 countries, students from four of the countries – India, China, France and Scotland – showcased their culture through various dance, vocal and instrumental performances. Students from all five of the district’s schools came dressed in traditional clothing representing their heritage.

“My favorite part of the festival was watching people I know perform dances,” freshman Vaishnavi Tipireddy said. “In one word, it was colorful.”

In total there were around 60 performers as well as over 65 volunteers at the cultural booths. The cultural booths had an assortment of activities for people of all ages to try.

“Its important to respect other cultures and enrich ourselves in their cultures so we can understand different people in the world,” sophomore Sonali Murugan said. “We live in a very diverse world so chances are that we still have a lot of cultures to learn about. It is important to learn the way things work in other cultures of the world.”

Students and families decorated their booths with fabrics, music, artifacts and scents representing their culture. Some even went as far as to create PowerPoint presentations, apply Henna or even teach the written language!

“I went to the festival to support my country,” Murugan said. “I got to help set up and decorate the India booth. It was nice to see everyone’s colorful clothes.”

By the end of the day, everyone who attended the festival had the opportunity to experience 12 countries’ traditions in a single day.

“I hope that everyone learned a little something,” Wells said.

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