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By Patrick Donachie

Foods and decorations from a vast array of cultures were on display at Public School/Intermediate School 266’s “Multicultural Day” held all day Friday. Elementary and middle-school students danced, cooked food and learned about many diverse backgrounds during the event.

“The school is a melting pot of different cultures,” said Stu Raphael, who was a dean at the school and the multicultural director. PS/IS 266 is located on the Frank Padavan Campus in Glen Oaks.

According to Raphael, planning for the event began at the beginning of school year. Raphael said that he organized the first multicultural day during the first year of the school’s existence in 2003.

The festival started at 8:30 a.m. with a parade conducted by the nine different middle-school homerooms. Raphael said that each homeroom was assigned a country to study, and they built tents in the school’s yard for the younger students to visit. Kelly Parra, the school’s music teacher, said the theme of the festival was animated movies. The middle-school students based the themes of their tents on Disney movies that were set in different countries.

“They look forward to it all year,” she said about the students. “They’re proud of each other’s cultures.”

The festival was a culmination of months of classes and a partnership between the school and Lotus Music and Dance, a Manhattan-based studio that provided instructors to teach students choreography emblematic of the various cultures and countries they studied.

At the French tent, students offered crepes and “fromage pies,” (cheese pie) while in the Mexico tent middle schoolers showed off clay sculptures they created. Brian, an eighth grader, said that he had enjoyed the new foods he had been exposed to, but he also expressed his appreciation for the school’s multicultural approach.

“There’s not a lot of schools that do this,” he said.

For Raphael, this festival would be his last as an school instructor: After 32 years as a teacher and 13 years at PS/IS 266, he was retiring. He said he looked back on the festivals throughout the year with great fondness.

“For me, it’s bittersweet. It wasn’t my expertise, and we just grew this into something great,” he said. “It’s something I’m proud of, and I’m grateful we had the opportunity.”

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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