Carteret celebrates multicultural day

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Parents and students celebrated the first multicultural day at Carteret Elementary School on Friday, May 9.

The event was a sampling of native dress and food with much of the edibles from the family kitchen. The whole affair was coordinated by Carteret educators Susanne Mancheno, Erlinda Capollari and Gladys Avila-Navas and was held in the multipurpose room.

“This is a nice way to connect to the community,” said Mancheno, K-6 bilingual teacher. “It was the dream of Erlinda, our Spanish teacher. This was something our community has been waiting for.”

Capollari, a second-year teacher, was especially enthusiastic.

“I’m Albanian and my husband is Egyptian,” she said. “Working here with children from many cultures, I thought it would be a good idea. I love learning about different cultures.”

She said Avila-Navas was a big help, too.

“Gladys is very well known in town,” she said. “We sent out flyers to see if people wanted to participate and have 28 families.”

The Carteret neighborhood is a melting pot. Navas, a paraprofessional and special education teacher, did not know how many nationalities were in the student population, but off the top of her head said school children represent Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, the Sudan, Ecuador, Sri Lanki, Peru, the Philippines, China, Africa, Italy and African Americans.

Plans for the event were hatched four months ago, she said.

“We thought it wouldn’t happen,” she continued. “There’s so many things going on now. There’s testing this week, so we’re very excited.”

Principal John Baltz welcomed his guests in English and the guidance counselor, Marissa Acosta, did the same in Spanish.

Foods included Filipino turon, which is a fried banana spring roll, and lumpia, a pork and cabbage spring roll; Puerto Rican flan de queso or cheese flan; Sudanese legimat which is a donut confection; Argentine empanadas filled with egg, olives and onions; Salvadorian pupusas de queso or pancakes filled with cheese, compliments of Avila-Navas’ mother. Also to be sampled was flije which is a salty napoleon-type concoction of feta cheese, garlic and walnuts from Albania. A stringed instrument called a cifteli, also from Albania, was displayed on the table with the food. Capollari provided the flije and cifteli.

“This is our first year for this event,” she said, “and not our last.”