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Harrison Middle Schoolers Celebrate Diversity

HARRISON, N.Y. – Louis M. Klein Middle School celebrated the diversity of Harrison Wednesday night with the fifth annual International Night held at Harrison High School.

Students brought food from 20 to 25 cultures all around the world for people to sample. When the tasting was done, the event moved into the auditorium for various cultural performances. From a Swedish Maypole dance to French songs to Spanish poems, students showed the diverse community of Harrison and what it has to offer.

“The parents donated the food and the kids put on all the performances themselves,” said Elvira Gibaldi, an Italian teacher at the middle school.

Gibaldi said that when the event was started five years ago, it was limited to one cafeteria in Louis M. Klein Middle School. Five years later, International Night takes over several big rooms in the high school.

When French teacher and co-organizer Ariel Mankes first came to Harrison after living in Manhattan she said she expected the town to have a homogenous population. But what she saw as far as diversity in the community made her want to take a job with the district even more.

“A lot of the students in my class speak different languages at home,” Mankes said. “This is really great for kids because it lets them experience other cultures in town they may not be familiar with.”

Brendan Gallivan, director for foreign languages and English as a Second Language in the district said that the event not only featured languages and cultures taught in the classroom but those that are not as well. Gallivan said that the school district has everything from Belgian to Japanese students who all come together as one.

“The children are proud to celebrate the beautiful differences we have in Harrison but they also learn that they have a lot in common,” Gallivan said. “We had a Japanese girl in our district that had a hard time learning English when she first arrived. Three years later she had English mastered and said it was Spanish that she was having difficulty with.”

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