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Harrisburg Elementary hosts hundreds for cultural event


N.C. PTA grant, volunteers make school’s second annual event a success

By Jessica Groover
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Local residents and family members of Harrisburg Elementary School students were able to visit Greece on Saturday while listening to Scottish bagpipes.

“Yiasou, welcome to Greece,” Gwen Politis said while standing beside a booth decorated in blue and white, the colors of the Greek flag. Nearby, a man entertained the crowd and represented Scotland by playing the bagpipes.

Politis greeted people by saying, “Yiasou,” the word for “hello” and “goodbye” in Greek and informed passersby about Greece’s history, other Greek words and famous Greek people.

She and other members of the Harrisburg Elementary PTA hosted the second annual Multicultural Celebration on Saturday at the school.

The free event was put on in part by a $1,000 Parent Involvement Grant from the North Carolina PTA, and with the help of countless volunteers and PTA staff who gave of their time over the more than two-month planning process.

Forty countries were represented with booths of information and items from the country including food, clothing and jewelry. 

Behind every booth, one or more volunteers answered questions about the country, offered food samples and stamped each participant’s event passport. At several booths, there also were opportunities to have names written in another language.

More than 450 passports were handed out to eager students and community members, many of whom had family members in tow as they toured displays that filled the school’s cafeteria and gymnasium. 

At the back of each passport were questions about countries, including the capital, the colors of the flag and an interesting fact. Once participants completed the questions about three countries of their choice, they were entered in a raffle to win one of three globes.

“We’re really implementing the passports and making them more educational,” said Iris Friends, one of the three chairs of the programs committee for the Harrisburg Elementary PTA.

Friends’ co-chairs, Viki Hojnacki and Charisse Carter, raced from booth to booth, ensuring everything went smoothly for the volunteers and the participants.

At Politis’s booth, she answered a question or offered a piece of information about Greece before she stamped each passport. Politis noticed it was not just the children who learned about the cultures. The parents also participated.

“Families like learning together,” Politis said. “I’ve heard parents say, ‘I learned about that when I was in school.’ It’s very much a family activity and not just the kids going from booth to booth.”

Trying the food from the countries was a bonus for the parents and children.

“We wanted to come out and sample different things, different cultures and good food,” said Cartess Ross, parent of three Harrisburg Elementary students. “You can never turn that down.”

Ross’s daughter, Kayla Ross, 9, enjoyed seeing shoes from Ghana, and daughter, Skye Ross, 6, liked drinking tea at another booth.

Attendees were also able to watch a variety of entertainment, including Irish dancers, Greek dancers, African drums and dance, a Honduran poetry reading and other presentations.

While attendees enjoyed the entertainment and food, the common feature most people appreciated was learning about the various cultures.

“Not everyone can afford to travel,” said Melanie Wallace, mother of three students at Harrisburg Elementary. “It’s nice to get to visit different countries.”

• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.

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