• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Around the world

Van Allen celebrates diversity at 2nd International Night
Elizabeth Mwaura-Johnson offers a mandazi to Mahala Smith of Coralville during Van Allen’s second annual International Night March 28 in North Liberty. Mandazi is a fried Kenyan doughnut. (photo by Doug Lindner)

NORTH LIBERTY– The flags of many nations waved at James Van Allen Elementary March 28.
Twenty-two countries were represented at Van Allen’s second annual International Night, which brought between 500-800 people to the North Liberty school, according to Mandy Bezoni-Puaina, one of the founders of the event and an English Language Learner instructor.
The evening provided a showcase of national heritage, allowing the young student population to demonstrate its diversity and fellow students to familiarize themselves with cultures other than their own.
The evening kicked off with a pizza dinner in the cafeteria, organized by the student council, with profits from the meal to go toward an end of the year celebration.
Lining the hallway to the gym were dozens of national flags, complemented by student drawings and related artwork.
The Van Allen gymnasium was filled with colorful displays of food, art, clothing and culture from around the world as part of the celebration.
“This year we had them fill out an Around the World Bingo sheet,” explained Bezoni-Puaina. “It was similar to a scavenger hunt. They had a list of fun items and people to find around the event. They turned in the completed sheet for a chance to win a prize.”
Families could circle the globe by touring the displays ringing the gymnasium, where they were invited to try a fried Kenyan doughnut or see their name written in Korean.
Twenty-six Van Allen families manned the displays, which related directly to their heritage, Bezoni-Puaina said.
“This is a great tradition and an extremely popular event that we have put on the past two years at Van Allen,” noted Van Allen Principal Eric Ewald. “It's a great opportunity for us to highlight the diversity within our school and build empathy among our students and school community.”
Instilling empathy became a focal point for the school after district staff revisited the building’s mission statement. A team met on a regular basis to build empathy and one of the ideas was to feature the range of cultures represented in the school by hosting an International Night.