McKenny Elementary unites by celebrating diversity

Margaret McKenny: Kids share heritage, traditions with classmates, teachers

Staff writerMarch 12, 2012 

Last week’s daily announcements at Margaret McKenny Elementary School in Olympia included greetings by several students in their native languages.

“We’ve been hearing Chinese and Vietnamese, Spanish – even Russian,” said kindergarten teacher Kathe Fettig. “We have kids from Mexico, Korea and all over the place.”

With about one out of every three kids being ethnic minorities, the 382-student body located in the southeast corner of the city is one of the most diverse in the Olympia School District.

Friday, the school was scheduled to celebrate its rich heritage with an International Night event.

“It is an evening of food, booths and performances reflecting our school’s diversity,” said McKenny principal Brendon Chertok. “In some respects, our school reflects larger community trends and efforts.”

Rolling up to the big night, students worked on posters with international greetings. Families prepared food from their home countries and staff members created loaves of bread from different parts of the world.

Julio and Martha Arana, who perform with Danza Quetzalcoatl, taught kindergartners a traditional Aztec dance known as Xochil, which means flower, for the evening celebration.

Their six-year-old daughter and her classmates also created Aztec-style headdresses, known as Quetzal Copilli, with shiny fabric, beads and feathers.

“It’s pretty,” six-year-old Chloe Gover said as she tried on her colorful masterpiece.

“These are my favorite because they have sparkles on them,” five-year-old Madison Hays said as she arranged some clear, flat marbles on her headband.

McKenny’s International Night is about celebrating everybody’s heritage, Fettig said, and it does so through the use of food, music and dance performances. This was the third year McKenny’s site council organized the event, and it has become a treasured tradition.

“It brings our school closer to a family community,” Fettig said.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433
Twitter: @Lisa_Pemberton

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