Families display cultural prideMay 02, 2022 09:09PM ● By Jet Burnham
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
Do you know where Belize is?
“When I say I’m from Belize, nobody knows where that is,” Loyola Urbina said.
She was thrilled for the opportunity to help her granddaughter Isabella, a fourth grader, educate her classmates about her country, which is located in Central America.
Isabella’s family was one of many who hosted a booth at Mountain Shadows Elementary School’s Culture Night, held March 31. At their booth, they displayed items from their Belize and Mayan heritage, and pictures of when Isabella visited Belize.
“It’s part of her culture, part of who she is,” Urbina said. “We want our grandchildren to learn their culture and to know where their ancestors came from. That’s important to us.”
Other cultures represented at the community event were Cambodia, Iraq, Italy, Mexico, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Hopi, Netherlands, Japan, Samoa, Venezuela, Russia, Hungary, Kenya and Somalia.
Displays featured family heirlooms, everyday items, photographs and food.
Fourth grader Jade Matthes stood at her family’s Samoa display and answered questions about the crafts, jewelry, instruments, books and clothing.
Her brother Jonah, a second grader, performed a Samoan slap dance with his classmates, like the one his dad and uncles danced in their youth. Jonah invited his Samoan grandfather, Rudy Matthes, to see his performance.
Matthes said he was proud that his grandchildren were excited to share their culture with others.
Second grade teacher Janae Robinaugh admits she didn’t even know Jonah had Samoan heritage until he was assigned to participate in the dance. She said it was fun to learn more about her students as they shared their cultures, because she isn’t always aware of that part of their lives.
Principal Tina Susuico said about a third of the students at Mountain Shadows come from a different culture.
Jade and Jonah’s mother, Adrieana Matthes, believes having a diverse student body helps kids to learn that it’s OK to be different. She said the culture fair gave students an opportunity to highlight their differences and to be proud of where they come from.
Susuico also believes learning about different cultures encourages people to learn from each other.
“I think it helps us have a better understanding of our differences,” she said. “I think it helps us to recognize there is so much diversity out in the world that sparks curiosity in us all. It may open up different possibilities for students wanting to study abroad or working in different countries.”
Learning about culture and communities is part of the second-grade standards. Under the direction of music teacher Lynmari Taylor and dance teacher Diana Brewster, the second graders performed a musical tour around the world for families at culture night. They sang songs from various countries and danced the Mexican Hat Dance, Germany’s “Chicken Dance” and the Samoan Slap Dance.
“Our goal was to celebrate diversity and culture within our communities,” Robinaugh said. Her mother, Jan Lance, made costumes for the performance.
Families also enjoyed sampling food from onsite food trucks Jurassic Taco and District Thai.
Culture Night was not held the last two years because of the pandemic.
“It was important to bring it back,” said Robinaugh, who helped plan the event. “It's part of Mountain Shadows’ history and heritage.”