Cathedral Academy at Pompei celebrate many cultures

By Eileen Jevis | Staff writer

The Cathedral Academy at Pompei (CAP), nestled on the northside of Syracuse, has traditionally been one of the settlement areas for those new to the United States. The school embraces students and families that originate from five continents and 17 countries including Myanmar, Vietnam, South Sudan, Congo and Kenya. 

To celebrate the diverse culture of the students, Principal Tina Seymour established a Cultural Celebration and invited parents, past graduates, staff, faculty and current students to share their customs, food and music. This year’s celebration took place on June 9 at the school.

Seymour said the celebration teaches students to be proud of who they are and where their families come from. “It’s an opportunity for students to learn to respect each other and embrace diversity with an open mind and to understand that no matter where we come from in the world, we are all God’s children.”

The school community emphasizes the importance of being kind to everyone and open to differences, explained Seymour. “Daily prayers, projects and attendance at Mass demonstrate the importance of God’s love and loving our neighbors, regardless of one’s gender, age or race,” she said. 

Sharon Betz has taught second grade for 25 years. The Cultural Celebration is just one way to teach the students about different backgrounds and traditions. In addition to celebrating the Chinese New Year for example, the children learn the origins of their fellow students by studying maps that show “how big and beautiful our world is.”

“There is opportunity to teach powerful lessons as part of our social studies curriculum,” added Seymour. “The students learn the continents and countries that make up our world and the cultures of each.” 

Seymour said the language barrier is the biggest challenge for faculty and staff, especially when communicating with parents. “Not only do the parents not speak English in their homes, they cannot help with homework, read or understand notes sent home from school, or meet deadlines for financial help. It’s very difficult to provide assistance that some families require.”

Betz agrees that communicating with parents is a daily challenge. “Sometimes, older siblings or another family member can translate,” she explained. Additionally, the staff and teachers receive professional development in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). “We also have Title I teachers that assist in small-group or even individualized teaching,” she said. Title I is a federal program that provides children the opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, high-quality education and to close educational achievement gaps. Despite the language barriers, those who attended the celebration enjoyed sampling food and enjoying music. As Poh Ling Yeow, a Malaysian-born Australian cook, actress, and author said, “Food is a common thread that connects us no matter what culture we come from.” The Cultural Celebration is just one of the methods the staff at CAP use as teachable moments — moments that will resonate with the students long after their social studies books are closed. 

“Having a melting pot of students brings Jesus and joy to our school,” said Seymour. 

Editor’s note: Visit the Catholic Sun Facebook page to see more photos from this event!

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