HOWELL – The gymnasium was decked out in vibrant, bright colors and stocked with tons of tasty, ethnic treats for world language students at Howell High School for their International Festival.
According to Rebecca Policastro, Communications & District Projects Coordinator for the Freehold Regional High School District, the International Festival is “the world language departments’ culminating event and features students who are studying a language.”
Spanish teacher Sandra Klusewicz remarked that the festival is only for students at Howell HS that take a world language: Spanish, French, or Italian. “The kids did a great job,” she said.
The festival, which was put on every year in the past, now runs every other year.
Kluscewicz said that all of the decorating and food was prepared by the world language students. Students made dishes relevant to the language they study in class, such as rice and beans, croissants, and other unique ethnic dishes. They also contributed desserts, snacks, and beverages.
The idea was to have all of the students try each other’s food and celebrate the different cultures and languages that they study. The festival ran for the entire school day, said Policastro, but each period a new class world language of students would take the period to experience some new cultures at the festival.
“Rather than going to class, they come here,” where they can try the food prepared by other students in other world language classes, said Kluscewicz.
Food was not the only centerpiece of this festival, however. There were also a variety of performances by students that represented different cultures.
“The kids are asked if they want to volunteer [to perform] and then they sign up,” said Kluscewicz.
While participation in the event is not mandatory for class, Emma Varrial, another Spanish teacher at HHS, noted that a lot of the world language students choose to participate by in bringing food or performing.
In just one period, students put on a mock soccer game to celebrate the highly popular sport in Spain and three students performed a choreographed dance to popular Spanish song “Mi Gente.” In addition to this, student Nicole Roble sang in Spanish while playing guitar to an original Disney song from the film “Coco,” called “Un Poco Loco.”
A particularly interesting part of the festival was that it did not limit students to celebrating only the languages offered at HHS. While the school offers Spanish, French, and Italian, students went the extra mile to bring in Japanese-inspired food or show off unique art native to their own culture.
Howell student Vinita Mhatre brought her own culture into the mix by performing a traditional South Indian dance called Bharatanatyam. Mhatre was dressed in traditional Indian garb and performed a lovely dance for her fellow students to show them all a little bit of her culture.
Mhatre said that, although she and her family are actually North Indian, the dance still demonstrates a meaningful part of her culture and it is also something she enjoys doing in her free time as a dancer.
The performance aspect of the festival was a favorite among students as they sat in the audience and cheered loud and proud for their fellow language students.
Policastro said that other students planned to perform opera and sing a Spanish tribute to famous Mexican artist, Selena as well.
The gymnasium was packed with students all day long and, as it is an event meant only for world language students, it required a certain level of “security.”
“We have quite a system, teachers rotate to different spots, manning the doors, take attendance,” so other students don’t sneak in, said Varrial.
“For the most part, it’s a wonderful day,” said Varrial.