MONROE, CT — Students crowded into the bleachers inside Masuk’s gymnasium Friday afternoon to watch their peers share their cultural backgrounds through live Guatemalan music, Indian dancing and other entertainment.
The high school cafeteria was decked out in flags, students sat at booths representing close to 20 countries during flex periods to share their ethnicity, and school chefs, John Hoyt and Donna Lopiano, prepared traditional dishes from around the world.
“It was awesome to see so many kids open to trying new foods,” said Iga Leszczynska, a French teacher at Masuk, “and the food was great.”
Leszczynska wore a dress from her native Poland on Friday, while sitting in the front row of the bleachers. She organized the annual event with history and social studies teacher Ian Lowell and Joel Castillo, a Spanish teacher.
“This was amazing,” a smiling Leszczynska said of the level of student participation. “The kids were so respectful of other cultures. This is something very valuable and positive to do, because it increases cultural awareness.”
Inside the cafeteria, students decorated their booths and brought artifacts, traditional attire, currency and candy, according to Leszczynska. They also prepared interactive activities for the public.
“They were very creative with this,” Leszczynska said. “Some of the activities they came up with were henna tattoos, language matching games and writing names in Hebrew.”
The event was open to the entire school, though she said mostly sophomores and juniors took part in the fair.
“All the students volunteered,” she said. “We needed to organize over 1,000 students. They wanted to do this. The participating students were part of the Peer Membership, French, and Spanish clubs.”
Leszczynska said parents from the community also contributed to the Cultural Fair.
The fair began in the cafeteria at 10:05 a.m. and went on for three lunch waves, before the festivities moved to the gymnasium for live entertainment and dancing at noon.
“We wanted to increase cultural awareness and make the students more appreciative of other cultures,” Leszczynska said, adding of Masuk, “it’s a very diverse population.”