School celebrates diversity

Dancers with the Corazon Azteca dance group dressed in traditional Mexican garb perform for the students and parents Oct. 11 at Valley Intermediate School. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A line of nearly 300 children no more than two generations removed from a foreign country stretched around Valley Intermediate School Oct. 11 as they celebrated Pelham’s myriad collection of cultures.

During the Parade of Countries, which was part of the school’s International Bread Festival, children with ties to 52 different countries donned cultural garb and marched under the country’s banner as their classmates cheered them on.

“They were either born in that country, their parents were born in that country or their grandparents were born there,” said VIS English as a second language teacher Renae Speaks. “They are so proud of their heritage.”

The parade included children with ties to countries such as Pakistan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and the United States. Many children in the parade wore the traditional garments of their respective countries.

The International Bread Festival day was the culmination of weeks of preparation by the school’s teachers and students, said VIS teacher Leslie Cranford, whose class focused on Nigeria.

“Our class has been learning the Nigerian stomp, and the kids will teach it to everyone who visits our classroom today,” said Cranford, whose class wore shirts dyed to look like the Nigerian flag.

“There is a lot of value in doing this each year. It teaches the kids to respect individuality,” Cranford added. “It teaches them the importance of individuality and tolerance.”

After the parade, the school’s more than 700 students packed into the VIS auditorium to watch dance groups and classmates perform dances and musical pieces from many different countries.

During the assembly, members of the Shelby Shufflers organization performed several square dances, and members of the Corazon Azteca group performed several Latin dances.

VIS fourth-grade student Sanjay Harinatha, a native of India, performed a dance to the song “Amplifier,” and VIS students Jossie Marquez-Grado and Devani Grado-Lupez performed traditional Mexican dances.

Student Arshnoor Grewal danced to the song “It only happens in India,” and students Madison Brock, Zach Cherry, Hunter Hall, Aaron Hudson, Anna Letson, Lili Nkinda, Tony Palma, Jonathan Scarbrough and Carys Stubbs performed a percussion piece from the Phillipines.

Students Ashlee Abbott, Lauren Brimingham, Claire Clemmons, Cadence Crocker, Grayson Dill, Katie Duchock, Jeremy Ellison, Anna Grace Hall, Camden Jones, Emily Makosky, McKenzie Mann, Brannon McKinley, Molly Miller, Gino Ramos, Matthew Rye, Bethany Warden and Jackson Weaver performed three Native American songs from the Creek, Huron and Arapaho tribes.