Tasting the World at Molloy Int’l Day

H.S. Celebrates City’s Diversity

At Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood, the hundreds of ethnicities that represent over 1,500 students are a prime example of the kind of community the over 8 million people of New York City share.

Archbishop Molloy High School President Richard Karsten is pictured with parents and students at the Briarwood school’s International Day event.

“Molloy’s students mirror the character and diversity of Queens, as well as New York City at as a whole,” said Richard Karsten, president of the private Catholic school as well as a graduate of its class of 1981. “Our school is all about family, and what better way to educate our students and their families about that ideal than by embracing our differences, and the qualities that make us all unique.”

Archbishop Molloy has hosted its International Day event for over three decades. Since 1980, Molloy has invited students and their families, faculty, friends and neighbors to the school, which is located on Main Street just north of Queens Boulevard, right in the heart of Queens.

The event was founded thanks to the efforts of Lou Santos, a Spanish teacher and softball coach at Molloy. Santos believed the school was not doing enough to educate its student body about their heritage. He approached school administrators with the proposition of hosting an event that would celebrate the cultures of all, or in his words, “display the quilt of Archbishop Molloy High School’s ethnic makeup.”

Given the green light, Santos organized talent to provide music and dance performances at Molloy’s very first International Day. Food prepared and served by students and their parents was also big part of the itinerary, and several showcases of cultural artifacts rounded out the program. The inaugural event drew about 800 people and was considered a success.

As the event evolved over the years, student participation became more prominent. Eventually they would headline the entire performance portion of the day, and with this responsibility came much preparation.

“The original goal of International Day was to facilitate learning about culture, and we realized that asking the students to star as presenters really accomplished that,” said Santos. “They practice their performances for hours upon hours, and through that they learn a great deal about themselves and their friends. International Day has also helped to establish deeper involvement by our after school cultural clubs.”

Today, visitors from nearby Forest Hills, Rego Park, Elmhurst, Kew Gardens and Jamaica are as likely to come out to Molloy for International Day as those as far as Astoria, Bayside, Ridgewood, Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Long Island. The result is a mix of everyone and everything that makes New York City great, all under one roof for one grand celebration of culture.

At Molloy’s 34th Annual International Day, the smell of delectable dishes from all over the world immediately greeted over 1,300 visitors. Those just arriving were directed to the Capt. Anthony Marsloe Gymnasium, where a variety of homemade dishes lined table after table.

At the Filipino table, alumnus Herbert Leona, Molloy Class of 2011, worked all day long as he has for years, carving a fully roasted pig to please one of the longer lines of hungry visitors.

Over at team Italian, trays of homemade baked pastas, chicken, and sausage occupied the largest area of the gym. The Indian dishes were delicious, but perhaps the spiciest offerings of the day.

Students from the school’s Ebony Club showcased Jamaican, Haitian, Trinidadian, and African cuisine among others. There was also a huge contingency of Greek, Asian, and Eastern European volunteers proudly offering amazing dishes of their own.

“I felt that many nationalities that haven’t had much presence in years past were much better represented this year,” said Santos, who remains one of the lead coordinators of the event. “The Irish club made a big comeback, and nearly all Latin American countries were represented in terms of food. It was great to see.”

Beyond the main courses, a dessert spread occupied the school’s cafeteria, and it extended seemingly as far as the eye could see. From cupcakes to kesio, streusel to Irish soda bread, the creations of Molloy’s student and parent volunteers rounded out the day’s menu with a wide range of sweet and flavorful delights.

Parent volunteers are a big reason the event’s food service enjoys such success. “The parents have been involved since the very first event,” said Santos. “One parent, Mrs. Angela Schlossbacher, volunteered for 10 years after her children had graduated by hosting a table featuring Irish Belleek and other artifacts. Mrs. Schlossbacher’s participation speaks to the level of dedication on the part of the parents. They see the value in this event, and they are a tremendous help in delivering our message to their children.”

Once everyone had their fill of edible offerings, Molloy students took center stage in the Jack Curran Gymnasium, where performances of cultural song and dance took shape. Those students participating represented the school’s Ebony, Asian, West Indian, Indian, Italian, Spanish, and Greek clubs as well as the Pipes & Drums band.

Also performing were the school’s dance and step teams, which celebrated American culture and others not represented in other parts of the program. Dances included the Irish jig, Chinese lion dance, Bollywood Fusion, Merengue and Bachata among others.

The support of the community was inspiring this year. Students and their parents helped the program to go on without a hitch, and the work of several alumni proved critical to the planning and execution stages of the event.

“Everyone’s dedication to International Day is truly appreciated,” said Santos. “We couldn’t host this event year in and year out without the commitment of our community.”

“Every dish, movement, and musical note told a story,” said Sabina Kobinski, a teacher and International Day Committee member at Molloy as well as an alumnus of the school’s Class of 2004. “With so many cultures represented, there was so much to learn and to appreciate. I think this event is extremely important for our students and their families, and I am honored to be a part of its planning.”

“We proudly expressed our national pride through song and dance, as well as the delicious food that we shared together. All of these things showcased the spirit of hospitality and family that is embedded in everything that we do at Molloy,” said Karsten. He continued, noting, “although our families originate from many places across the globe, we are connected as members of the Molloy community, and we are united as proud citizens of the borough of Queens.”

Editor’s note: Joe Sommo is Archbishop Molloy High School’s communications director.

More from Around New York