Schools’ International Festival celebrates culture

Published 6:11 pm Thursday, April 30, 2009

The halls of Shelby County schools fill each day with faces of children who come from numerous backgrounds.

ESL Resource Teacher Mary Early said they come from 40 different cultures to be exact. This is why the English as a Second Language (ESL) Department plans to host an International Festival on May 9 to take the foreign out of culture. The event is set to take place at the County Instructional Services Center in Alabaster.

“We want to make the public aware that we have a very diverse student group,” Early said. “We want everyone to share their personal experience and learn that while we may be very different, we also have a lot in common.”

The festival will include presentations by students, parents and teachers.

One student’s parents plan to share their culture and heritage through art. The student’s father will present a traditional Japanese folk tale, while the mother plans to write guests’ names in Kanji.

A student group plans to introduce the new Venezuelan flag. Other groups plan to perform traditional cultural dances.

“Currently, there are over 40 languages and cultures represented in Shelby County Schools, and we are excited about sharing the cultural and linguistic diversity of our community,” said ESL Program Area Supervisor Leah Dobbs-Black.

Community partners such as the Islamic Community Center and the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA), as well as health, insurance and tutoring services will be available to share more about what their agencies offer. The culmination of the festival will be musical and performing arts presentations from around the world.

There is no charge for the festival, which will end in musical and performing arts presentations. Early said organizers hope to learn from this year’s event and build on it in coming years.