Students SAIL through international festival
Ellie Karimi, a former student at Maurice J. McDonough High School in Pomfret, can’t pick a favorite country among those represented at a festival held by the school’s International Club.
A native of Iran, Karimi has to narrow down her top picks by continent instead. In Europe, she is partial to Spain. In South America it’s Mexico, then Guatemala, but then there’s El Salvador, too. Forget about Africa — “I can’t decide,” Karimi said. “I like all of it.”
McDonough houses Secondary Academy of International Languages (SAIL), a regionalized program for secondary English Language Learners (ELL) which helps students advance academically and socially while increasing English proficiency. However, the International Club is open to any student who wants to connect and build bridges among the cultures represented at McDonough.
More than 20 countries and regions were showcased at the fair including Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Finland, Gambia, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Iran, Italy, the Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Pan-African, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Spain, Russia, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.
“Everyone has a background. And if we understand that better, we’re able to see we’re together,” junior Phillip Aguilar said. “We don’t just exist in a box. Learning about other cultures makes us a lot more tolerant.”
McDonough junior Christiana Pangratie moved to America from Romania five months ago. Moving from a big city to the more pastoral suburbs has been an adjustment, but she’s been able to meet new friends by joining the International Club. “You meet new people who are open minded,” she said. “And I want to know about other people’s cultures.”
Jemari Hardy, a junior at McDonough visited the festival, where guests were able to sample foods from different countries, visit displays and talk to their peers about their native land.
“We are a diverse school, it’s more than black and white,” Hardy said. “I love this event so much.”
Maurice J. McDonough High School teacher Karena Bennett, left, speaks with Ellie Karimi, a former student at the school who helped start the International Club. Karmini, a native of Iran, helped organize the festival the club holds to introduce various cultures to McDonough students and staff.
Quynh Tran, a senior at Maurice J. McDonough High School, right, talks about Vietnam with technology teacher David Crisci during a festival hosted by the school’s International Club.
Symney Cameron, a Maurice J. McDonough High School junior, left, learns more about Russia from juniors Kyle Olenko and Natalia Theriault during the International Festival at the school.
Christiana Pangratie, a native of Romania and a junior at Maurice J. McDonough High School, left, talks about her home country with McDonough junior Kayla Craig during a festival hosted by the school’s International Club.