Nashua high school students hold cultural festival

NASHUA – The first lunch of the day was about to start and the aromas of international fare had filled the room inside the cafeteria at Nashua High School North.

A group of students had spent Friday morning setting up for a cultural festival, at which students would be able to sample food representing nations spanning the globe.

With lunch just minutes away, junior Markiesha Ollison, one of the members of the Culture Committee, was frantically setting the last of the dishes, just before students were about to start ushering into the cafeteria.

“This is a chance for students to see how diverse the school really is,” said Ollison, who is of African-American and West Indian descent. She spent the previous night making pineapple cake for the festival.

Students who organized the event did so after surveying the student body and finding that acceptance of other races was one of the factors that needed the most attention.

Nashua is one of the most diverse districts in the state. Nearly 14 percent of students are of Hispanic descent. The types of food at the cultural festival were meant to represent the dozens of nationalities represented by the student body.

Junior Cindy Guerrier made fried plantains for the festival. Several local restaurants donated food, as well, she said.

Guerrier’s family moved to Nashua from Haiti when she was 10. She had to learn English while adapting to a new culture.

“Most people don’t know about all of the different cultures in our school,” she said.

Beth Kreick, the school’s student activities coordinator, helped students set up for the festival. She said events such as these serve as a reminder to the school community to embrace one another’s differences.

“It really brings to the forefront how diverse we are as a school,” she said.

Kreick said the school’s SPIRIT program is also helping to do that.

Rincon Columbian donated empanadas and Caribbean Restaurant donated a chicken and rice dish. There was also food from Germany, India, Malaysia and China. Roughly 15 nationalities were represented.

But it wasn’t just the food that made the festival a celebration of cultures.

Behind each table, students had put up posters with facts about the country. There were flags, native clothing and other items original to the countries hanging on the walls or laid out on the tables.

Miniature Eiffel Towers adorned the table where French food was available. The students had also put a map on the wall where students could place a pin to mark their native country.

Junior Liz Lamere was one of the students who came to the festival to check out what was going on. She enjoyed a sample of the risotto, which she got from the French table, as she walked around.

“It’s good,” she said. “It’s cheesy rice with vegetables.”

Ollison said the goal is that by teaching students to embrace cultural differences, it will help alleviate other issues in the school, as well.

“There is a lot of disrespect in the school,” she said.