By Diana Nelson
Nearly 800 people got a chance to experience ethnic cultures from around the globe—all while staying close to home.
Thanks to staff and volunteers, the multi-purpose room at Kyrene de la Mariposa school became transformed into a multi-cultural festival, enabling students and their family members to learn more about the diversity of the school’s enrollment.
Each child received a mock passport and was able to use it to visit as many country booths as possible, time permitting, where there were maps, pictures and artifacts, along with representatives to answer questions. Some booths also featured food sampling and craft making.
Of the 575 students enrolled at Mariposa from pre-school to fifth grade, more than 40 different cultural backgrounds are represented, according to school officials. The school is in proximity to high-tech employers, such as Intel and Honeywell, so often families have re-located to the area from far-flung parts of the world, bringing along a wide variety of languages and traditions.
Mariposa teacher Sarah Rees served as chair of the event’s planning committee, noting:
“I think it is so important to introduce children to the wonders of other cultures in a way that’s fun and engaging for them so they can learn to appreciate the diversity in their world.
“We were so fortunate to have such an amazing team of parents, staff and volunteers to help us make this night special for the families of our students.”
The festival is celebrating its 16th year and is a favorite within the community. A committee of 17 teachers and parents worked side-by-side so that as many cultures as possible were represented including the Navajo Nation, several countries in Asia, Europe, Scandinavia and Africa.
During the event, attendees were entertained by the Kyrene Middle School Mariachi Band and Mariposa’s first-grade choir, as well as by Navajo, Ceili and Kerala dancers. Other highlights included a fashion show, flag ceremony and food trucks with a range of treats, including Navajo tacos.
One parent complimented the event’s planners, saying: “You and your committee did a wonderful job with this. It is our first year at Mariposa and it was so nice to see the great turnout and an environment that encourages diversity,” said Elsbeth Copeman, representing the culture of Zimbabwe.
Another parent commented, “Seeing the children participate in different cultures was so refreshing…The world is now too small for anything but having a better cultural awareness. Hopefully we will leave these kids a more tolerant and peaceful world,” said Ubi Sheikh, representing the culture of Kashmir.
In addition, about 48 volunteers, including members of the National Honor Society from Corona del Sol High School and junior-high kids from other schools in the Kyrene district, including Aprende, Pueblo and Kyrene Middle School, helped out just so they can return to Mariposa and partake of the festival.
“As Mariposa’s principal, I am extremely proud of the rich diversity of our school and how we are able to celebrate this through our annual Mariposa World Fair,” said Spencer Falgatter.
“Families from all around our globe are invited to share their heritage in a variety of ways at this special event,”
“Our goal is to create a climate of inclusion, where all students and families feel welcomed and valued, while increasing the capacity of cultural competency, equity and inclusion for all stakeholder groups. Each year, I look forward to this fabulous event that honors our families, their background and their unique heritage.”
Committee members assembled outstanding raffle prizes that totaled more than $3,300 in value and came from local business owners who support the school through donations, including Babbo Italian Eatery, Papa John’s and Voodoo Daddy’s Steam Kitchen, while others offered tickets and vouchers to attractions including Bearizona, AZ Science Center, Disneyland Resort and American Ninja Warrior Gym.
The raffle chairperson, Angi Januzzi-Wolf, who also represented Italy said, “Thank you so much for the support you all have given me. When I had the idea to do a raffle at the World Fair a few years ago, I never imagined it would be so successful.”
In 2018-19, Mariposa adopted a new mission and became a computer science academy. For the most recent school year, the school earned an A-plus rating as a “School of Excellence” by the Arizona Educational Foundation.