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PS 213 students celebrate culture, diversity

By Tom Momberg

For the 11th year, PS 213 in Bayside brought together parents, teachers and students last week for a celebration in diversity and global culture.

In the weeks leading up to the school’s annual International Fair, parent volunteers of a variety of ethnic backgrounds taught children folk dance and worked relentlessly to create and alter conventional garments. The result was a recital March 12 with traditional flare. The public was welcomed, and hundreds of parents and community members looked on in awe.

Carl Ullman Elementary School, 231-02 67th Ave., has in previous years given students of different ethnic backgrounds a chance to show off art forms prominent in their respective

cultures. In more recent years of the International Fair, grade levels from prekindergarten through fifth grade have each been assigned a country, and every student is encouraged to participate.

School Principal Kathleen Driscoll said the fair serves not only to celebrate diversity every year, but also to get students to learn and actively take part in one of the many international cultures that makes up New York’s melting pot.

“There are only seven presentations, so there is no possible way to recognize every diverse background here … but students of any ethnicity get the opportunity to put on the clothes and learn a new dance, a new culture,” Driscoll said.

Prekindergarteners kicked off the morning recital with a quick visit to China. Dressed in full-body panda costumes, the 4 and 5-year-old students put on a simple but fun routine to the Carl Douglas classic, “Kung Fu Fighting.”

Kindergarteners then took parents and students on a trip to Greece, followed by Korea, Pakistan and Central America.

Fourth graders then took a full auditorium on a trip through time, following decades of pop culture in the United States with such classics as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Finally, fifth graders dressed in white T-shirts imprinted with the Israeli flag took on traditional African dance, celebrating cultures of the Middle East and Africa.

In one of the highest-ranked districts in the New York City public education system, PS 213 Parent Coordinator Beth Revello said the school is very diverse, and that just-as-diverse strong parent involvement is one of the things that sets District 26 apart.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” she said.

When Revello came into her role at the school, the body of parents and students were just as diverse as they are now, but she said there were three different Parent-Teacher Associations speaking three different languages.

Now, there is only one PTA. All of the parents in the association have become very involved, and like the International Fair, they come together to embrace their differences to pursue one common goal: the education of their children.

“It encourages them to learn customs, language and even become more sociable with others that aren’t even of their culture,” Revello said. “The parents that we have are amazing because they encourage the other parents. They are very warm and embracing.”

Parallel to the coming together of parents and students of different backgrounds, all of the student performers returned to the auditorium stage at the end of the recital to lead students and parents in singing “We Are the World,” a song and charity single originally recorded by USA for Africa in 1985.

Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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