Oct. 27-Nov.2, 2005
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Holy Family School Celebrates Second Annual Diversity Day FAIRMOUNT — Holy Family School hosted its second annual Diversity Day on Oct. 21. The event provided an opportunity to learn more about the unique qualities that make each person special.
Holy Family School invited students from Cathedral School in Syracuse to participate in the morning portion of the program. More than 90 Cathedral School students paired up with Holy Family students to participate in classroom cultural activities, entertainment by an African storyteller in the gymnasium and a festive Italian lunch in the cafeteria.
The program began in the gymnasium, where Holy Family principal Linda Shulkin welcomed an excited group of students and staff from Holy Family and Cathedral Schools. She said that in preparation for Diversity Day, the Holy Family students had completed a project using crayons. She told everyone that later, as they would be entering the cafeteria, they would see the crayons. She continued, “Every crayon is different. As they stand by themselves, they’re not much of anything. But, when you take those colors of the crayons and you put them together, you can make new colors. Just like crayons — you as boys and girls — when you come together you’re all different. You all bring different talents and gifts to this room. We’re going to bring all the different things together by praying, working and playing together today.” Holy Family teacher Kathy Harding offered a blessing and led everyone in prayer.
Shulkin then directed everyone’s attention to a long table located in the center of the room. The table held two globes and candelabra holding 25 multi-colored candles. She explained that the white candle on the top that was already lit represented the purity of Jesus. “The other candles represent the people of the world with whom we are one body with Christ Jesus,” said Shulkin. “We invite you now to think about Jesus as you listen to the words of the song ‘One Light, One Song’ and watch as we light our candles.”
A number of students approached the table, bringing gifts representing various countries from around the world. The gifts included a Dutch windmill, Chinese fan, Dutch clogs, and a replica of a krathong (a floating lantern made of banana leaves) from Thailand. As students deposited their gifts on the table, each student lit one of the multi-colored candles. The lighting ceremony concluded in a joyous atmosphere with the students enthusiastically clapping to the accompanying music.
After all the candles were illuminated, Father Cleophas Tuka, a native of Kenya, gave a blessing. He also taught the children a greeting in Swahili. Cathedral School principal Charles LaBarbera was then introduced to those in attendance. He thanked Holy Family for inviting the Cathedral School students to the Diversity Day celebration. He told the students that he was sure they would learn things that day about one another’s culture and customs.
Grades two through six were then directed back to the classrooms to participate in cultural activities. The remainder of the students — day care, pre-k, kindergarten and first grade, remained in the gymnasium and were entertained with traditional African stories by storyteller Vanessa Johnson.
Director of daycare Tina Dee enjoyed the annual Diversity Day. “I absolutely love it,” remarked Dee. “It’s fun for the kids and it’s fun for us. It definitely makes us think outside of the box. As a parent of a preschooler, we have so many things to talk about for the whole two weeks prior to the event. I volunteered to bring potato soup because we’re Irish. When my son helped me prepare the soup, we talked about why Irish people eat so many potatoes. It’s a fantastic program and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Diversity Day is a result of former Holy Family teacher Kristen Hudson’s involvement in the school’s curriculum. “Last year we were talking about life skills — responsibility and respect for others in our character education program,” said Shulkin. “As a result, we decided to study the different cultures of other countries, focusing on what makes the people in that culture who they are. When you look at everything in the end, we’re all the same. We’re all loved by God.”
Physical education teacher Dave Christian was happy to hear that the students at Cathedral School had been invited to Diversity Day. “I feel that it’s a great opportunity for both schools to interact with one another,” said Christian. “I don’t think they get the chance to do that too often.”
Throughout the morning, both Cathedral and Holy Family students visited various classrooms, participating in special activities designed to assist them in learning about the countries of Australia, Ireland, Canada, Madagascar and Panama. Cathedral student Saharrah Maloney liked the experience of participating in Diversity Day. “I made some new friends here,” said Saharrah.
Holy Family fifth grader Jessica Mason learned quite a bit about different cultures. At one of the classrooms she visited, she made a “worry doll” out of a clothespin as she learned about the country of Panama. “It’s really nice to know how many cultures we have in this world,” said Jessica.
The evening portion of Diversity Day included displays of crafts, costumes, historical documentations, photographs from a variety of countries and cultures created by Holy Family students and their families.
The school cafeteria was transformed into an International Café with homemade samples of authentic cuisine being offered for those in attendance. Also scheduled that evening were performances by the Bethany Baptist Church Children’s Gospel Choir, and also, Latin, Irish and African dancing.