The inaugural “We Are” District 24 fair at the George Seuffert, Sr. Bandshell in Forest Park on June 3 certainly was a family and community event.
The event brought together 41 schools and standalone early childhood centers, home to over 40,000 students, and reflected and celebrated the district’s diversity.
The event was filled with hands-on activities like science projects, chess games and community resources. Highlights included the NYPD Rock Wall.
Students showcased their singing, dancing, band and acting talents with performances at the bandshell.
PS/IS 49 students Cameron Chung and Thomas Benitez portrayed the main characters of the play “Aladdin.”
Chung, who played the part of Aladdin, shared that, while she had done public speaking before, she didn’t have any acting experience.
“I remember finding out about it the night before auditions,” the seventh-grader said. “And I saw it, and I was like, ‘I have nothing to do this year. Why not?'”
Benitez said they had been rehearsing since December.
“I just saw a couple of my friends decided to do it. And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool. Maybe I’ll try,'” Benitez said. “And it was really a fun experience.”
The 30-dancer-strong team of IS 73 practices once a week.
Eighth-grader Keilah Sanahon has been on the dance team for two years. She said that being part of the team taught her teamwork.
“And it helps me expand my horizons,” Sanahon said.
Eighth-grader Ariana Morales started dancing in seventh grade and wants to pursue the activity in high school.
“It gives us advantages and skills that we can use in the future,” Morales said.
Parents also had the opportunity to learn more about health and social services.
District 24 has seen the most significant number of asylum-seeking students in New York City.
Claudia Rendon, the parent coordinator at PS 102 in Elmhurst, said her school offers several social programs, including a dual language program, and was prepared for the influx of new students.
“We also have a community coordinator in our school that works with shelter programs,” Rendon said. “We always have newcomers, so it wasn’t anything new. We knew what we had to do.”
Some organizers considered the event a way to heal from the COVID-19 pandemic that asked so much of the students and teachers.
Connie Altamirano, vice president of Community Education Council District 24, said the event was the medicine the community needed after all the challenges the pandemic presented and served as a reminder of how important personal interaction and community spirit were.
“It was truly inspiring to see our school children, parents, principals, educators and superintendent coming together for a day filled with joyful interactions and laughter and to witness so many beautiful families, students and staff under one roof building lasting relationships and sharing experiences,” Altamirano said.