Wareham students celebrate variety of cultures at International Night

By Matthew Bernat | May 18, 2018
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Jahniah Mattos performs a gumboot dance from South Africa during International Night.

The dances, flavors and sights of diverse cultures were celebrated on May 17 during Minot Forest Elementary’s International Night. The event, hosted by Wareham Public Schools Global Education Department, showcased students’ heritages through food, musical performances, crafts and displays.

Launched in 2003 by Principal Joan Seamans, the night is a highlight of the year for many students and staff, said Laura Pol, a third grade teacher and one of the event’s organizers.

“There’s always a lot of enthusiastic involvement from the community,” said Pol.

For the third year, Marlene Gajeenthan had two tables at the event, representing Sri Lanka and Cape Verde. Gajeenthan is Cape Verdean and her husband is from Sri Lanka. Their two daughters, Amaya, 8, and Zenya, 7, were raised to honor both of their parent’s heritages, she said.

“We decided to participate because there aren’t any other Sri Lankan families in the area,” said Gajeenthan. “Tonight helps show everyone where we’re from. We celebrate both cultures in our family.”

At another table, Katarina Wynne, who immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden 30 years ago, stood with her daughter, Lisa. A former Minot student, Lisa is a Wareham High School graduate. Both handed out samples of Swedish candy and explained the various textiles, glass works and other Swedish items on display.

On stage, performances included African drumming and dancing as well as an Irish step dance from Shannon Daly, a student at the Proto Casano School of Irish Dance in Bourne. This was the second year Shannon performed.

“I’m nervous, but excited,” she said. “I’ve done this before.”

In addition to the performances, visitors sampled ethnic food prepared by the families as well as donations from several area restaurants.

Marlene Gajeenthan shows off fabric from Sri Lanka. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
Zenya, left, and Amaya Gajeenthan are of Sri Lankana and Cape Verdean heritage. Both participated at International Night on Thursday. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
Shannon Daly performs an Irish step dance. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
Katarina Wynne and her daughter Lisa celebrate their Swedish heritage. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
Colby Brown takes part in International Night while wearing an American flag. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
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