Crestview Middle School celebrates international students, cultures
By: Diane E. Samson
Embracing student diversity, Rockwood’s Crestview Middle School on Feb. 7 held an International Day, where students representing 11 different cultures and languages created displays showcasing their individual backgrounds.
The school’s English Language Learner students shared their personal immigration journeys, challenges and triumphs of learning a new language and moving to a new culture.
“International Day is a wonderful way for us to strengthen relationships within our school community,” said teacher Debbie Crahan. “It’s a special event, and it’s one that students and staff look forward to participating in each year.”
The student displays included essays explaining how they came to be in the U.S.
Some came because their fathers were offered job opportunities. Others came with almost nothing, their parents hoping for a better life for their children. Among the students in the latter category were two Somali girls who spent time as refugees in Kenya.
Other students came from Argentina, China, Israel, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Spain and Uzbekistan. They told their stories to teachers and friends and displayed photos and items from their countries. Some dressed in their country’s ethnic attire for the occasion.
The event also included food from each country.
Crahan and her colleague Beverly Tronicek organized the event to help Crestview students learn from the diversity of their fellow classmates.
This is the third year Crestview has had the celebration. The most culturally diverse school in the Rockwood School District, Crestview has 27 students participating in English Language Learner classes.
“It’s good for the other students to see the diversity of the school and it develops empathy and interest in others,” Crahan said. “Last year, the kids were just amazed at what these kids have been through.”
Most of the students came to the U.S. knowing little or no English and have mastered the language enough to give oral reports about their experiences.
Hamail Shaikh, an eighth-grader from Pakistan, has been in the U.S. about two and a half years. She said her family came to find a better life and education for their children, away from poverty and the problems of Pakistan.
When she first came to Crestview, Shaikh said she was nervous but quickly felt more at home.
“It was an amazing feeling to be in a school with different people and communicate with them in a different language,” Shaikh said. “That day, my dreams got stronger and made me feel that I can do anything in life successfully with the support of good education and Mrs. Crahan.”
She said Pakistan discourages educating women but her father wanted her to have an education.
“There boys have more value than girls, but here it doesn’t matter what gender you are,” Shaikh said.
Hurmat Siddiqui, a sixth-grader also from Pakistan, said the hardest part about coming to the U.S. was saying goodbye to her grandmother, but in the end, she believes she will have a better future.
Rotem Levinger, a seventh-grader from Israel, said it was hard to make friends at first when she moved in the fifth grade because she could not speak the language.
“At first everything was new and nothing felt like home,” Levinger said. “My father said it would get better, and he was right.”