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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter
They are residents of Wellesley, but citizens of the world. On May 10, elementary school students from all of the town’s public schools took charge to bring the Wellesley Multicultural Festival to the community.
“This is our first ever Wellesley Multicultural Festival,” said Rama Ramaswamy, excitedly.
She had spent the last 10 months planning the event and recruiting parents, students, WPS faculty, and community members to make the evening a success.
“All of the elementary schools were having tiny, little international fairs, so I decided to put them all together. So, these are all of the elementary schools in Wellesley Public Schools and a lot of the World of Wellesley,” she said.
“This is the first time the whole town has come together for a free admission, town-wide event where the elementary students take charge to highlight and showcase all of the different cultures living in Wellesley.”
In the cafeteria of Wellesley Middle School, PAWS (Preschool At Wellesley Schools) students and elementary students from Hardy, Fiske, Bates, Upham, Sprague and Schofield schools, as well as their parents, set up posters and tri-fold boards with the names of different countries printed in large letters at the top.
They offered customary eats and information on longstanding traditions from the countries. Parent volunteers also offered demonstrations on wearing ethnic clothing.
“I think that if we can do this every year for a few years, by the time kids graduate from fifth grade, they wouldn’t blink twice about different world cultures,” Rama said. “It would all be par for course and everybody would be very inclusive of everyone else.”
Even students from the middle and high schools got involved and offered their time as volunteers.
The Wellesley Multicultural Festival was put on in partnership with the World of Wellesley – one of the town’s organizations that aims to promote diversity and discuss the topic through cultural, socioeconomic, religious, racial, and ethnic lenses.
Students also shared aspects of their respective cultures through performances, including a tabla drum concert, a dance routine, and a town-wide orchestra.
Maria Lavilla, who participated in the festival with a flamenco dance performance, found it to be a great opportunity for students to share their knowledge of different cultures and broaden their horizons.
“I’m from Spain, so I think it’s exciting to bring what you know and share with everybody, so you can see from different perspectives,” she said. “The world is big, and [the students] are only in these schools. Right now, we’re in a multicultural world; everything is connected. That’s why they can learn even more about other cultures.”
“I always compare it to the experience that when you go to a sleepover at someone’s house and it’s the first time, it’s different from your family,” Lavilla continued. “They do things differently. When you go a different country, then you find out that it’s exactly the same thing. Then you can combine and take whatever you like from the different places.”