Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
Roberta T. Smith Elementary School Principal Thomasina Goodgame is embracing her school's cultural diversity.
She speaks Spanish with her Hispanic parents, and has plans to put signs up all over the school next fall that identify things in the school, such as walls and bathrooms, in both Spanish and English.
"I want to make our Hispanic families feel welcome in our schools," Goodgame said. "Imagine if you went to Japan, and did not speak any Japanese, and you had a hard time finding anyone who spoke English. When you did find people who spoke English, you'd naturally want to hang out with those people. I don't want our Spanish-speaking families to feel left out."
But the school is not just embracing the Hispanic side of its diversity -- it is embracing all ethnic groups at the school. The school held its annual Multicultural Night event on Thursday, with hallways decorated to represent different parts of the world. Goodgame said the school has been holding the event for at least five years.
More than 300 parents and students traveled from the shores of the Americas, to the jungles of Africa, to the outback of Australia, and down the Silk Road of Asia on Thursday -- and never left the school building.
There were food samples, and people in costumes, and the halls were decorated according to various cultural themes. The Asian hallway had Asian flags and dragon masks hanging from the ceiling. The African hallway was transformed into a sub-Saharan jungle.
"We want to show off the talents of our boys and girls, and the diversity at this school ..." Goodgame said. "We have students here who come from Haiti, from India, and some from China as well, and it's represented in our halls, throughout the school."
The largest segment of the school population is represented by African Americans, who make up 70.2 percent of the student body, followed by Hispanic students, who make up 14.2 percent of students, according to Goodgame. She said the third-largest group is categorized as white students, who make up 7.3 percent of the student population.
Goodgame said 5.2 percent of the student body is categorized as "multiracial," while Asian students make up the remaining 2.9 percent.
The Multicultural Night event was popular with several parents and students, as they got to learn a little about foreign countries, taste some exotic foods, see examples of foreign dress and art, and make things, like maracas crafted from plastic Easter eggs, rice and tape.
"It was wonderful," said parent, Michelle Bell. "I liked the pictures, and I liked all the food, too. I liked the Asian area most, though, because I liked the clothes, and how they are made."
Fifth-grader, Ashley Fierro, 11, said she liked the South American area the most. "I learned Brazil is the largest country in South America, and Brazil is the only country in South America that speaks Portuguese," she said.
Third-grader, Errenous Evans, 8, said she preferred her "trip" to Central America, though, where she got to make the maracas. "I've only been to Australia and Mexico so far, but I've enjoyed Mexico more, because it's a very interesting country," she said.