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An International Potluck Brings Together a School Community

Every year before Thanksgiving, the entire Success Academy Union Square community comes together for one of my favorite annual traditions — the International Potluck.

The International Potluck is more than a delicious feast; it is a wonderful way for scholars and their families to celebrate the diverse cultures within our school. My daughter, Daisy, who is in second grade, enjoys bonding with her friends and sharing stories about her Italian, English, Irish, Swedish, and Native American heritage.

As always, this year’s potluck was an amazing display of culture and community. Nearly 60 parents signed up to volunteer. As the chair of the organizing committee, I had the honor of working with all of them, including some whom I had never met before. That was special to me.

To accommodate everyone in the schools’ K-3 grades, we decided to hold two potlucks on separate days. Our parents reached out to local community groups and recruited artists to perform, including the SLK Ballet troupe and dancers from the Redhawk Native American Arts Council.

For weeks before the potluck, we worked on decorations. Each family made a paper doll to represent where they come from, and parents brought in furnishings and clothing from their home countries. One mother brought beautiful Haitian crafts for display, despite a very long commute to the school. Another mom spent all night making a beautiful, feather-bedecked poster highlighting the wonders of Brazil. And a dad held a conference call while hanging posters that his family had made about famous places in Europe.

Some families reached out to relatives far away: Grandparents mailed in traditional toys from Japan and Haitian desserts from Miami, showing that the SA Union Square community expands far beyond East 16th Street.

On both potluck days, families came dressed in traditional garb: matching outfits from India, handmade Romanian clothing that a mother and daughter proudly wore. A second grader skipped through the halls in Senegalese apparel sent from his homeland, and a dad who hails from New Jersey wore a Japanese yukata in honor of his wife and daughter’s ancestry.

Parents also volunteered to teach children about their traditions. They were swarmed by scholars eager to learn calligraphy, origami, and a Japanese ball-and-cup game in the art room.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an international potluck without food from around the world.  We had Spanish tortillas, Brazilian brigadeiros, Japanese asparagus maki, Chinese beef chow fun, Haitian coconut candy, Russian pancakes, soul food, and more!

All the families enjoyed the delicious dishes, colorful decorations and wonderful dance performances. But most of all, we enjoyed each other’s company and the opportunity to be with our children and see them get to know each other better.

Written by Jennifer Hampton November 24, 2015

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