Niskayuna High students celebrate diversity at culture fair

Orit Shiang sets up the Israel booth at the event.
Orit Shiang sets up the Israel booth at the event.

Lainie Christou offered a taste of Greece to students at Niskayuna High School last week.

Christou, who teaches Spanish at the Balltown Road school, wore a faux gold coin necklace, the traditional Greek black head dress known as a “mandili” and a long, flowing skirt in black and red colors.

She participated in Greek dance, with others familiar with Greek culture, for teenagers curious about other countries.

Students learned about customs from other countries during the school’s first “Multicultural Fair” in the Blatnick Gymnasium. In addition to Greece, African-American, Thailand, Israel, France, Vietnam and India were among were among the 14 nations represented.

“They ask how to pronounce the Greek alphabet, from the poster they saw,” Christou said, of questions received. “This is a wonderful way for the students to experience their cultures and feel their pride regarding their heritage.”

Some questions were easier to answer than others. Christou said some boys and girls asked what part of the country they should visit, and her answer came quickly: “Where I’m from, of course – Sparta!” she said.

Students staffed many of the booths. Sophomore Ellen Davis, 15, a member of the school’s French Club, was happy to represent for France.

“It’s an interesting way to learn about other countries and teach people a culture you know something about,” Davis said.

Some of the teens attracted visitors to their booths with fun facts written in large displays.  Kira Gold, 18, a senior at Guilderland High School, said people in Israel would say “My elephant is hungry” by saying (phonetically) “Ha-peel shely ra-eyv.” The popular teen phrase “You’re like really pretty” would translate to “Ah-tah mom-osh ya-feh.”

“People find my useful phrases pretty funny,” Gold said, who also told Niskayuna students she has visited Tel Aviv and the old city of Jerusalem.

“I tell them it’s a beautiful place,” said Gold, who wore the bright blue color of Israel and also wore a Star of David necklace. “This never comes off,” she said. “My grandmother gave it to me a couple years ago.”

Kids also learned about the Philippines. The islands are named after King Philip II of Spain. There are about 175 languages spoken in the Philippines and the country is the world’s second largest archipelago, made up of more than 7,000 islands.

The fair idea came from Samhita Koduri, 16, a junior of Indian ethnicity. She had heard about culture fairs in other schools. “I felt Niskayuna students could benefit from it,” Koduri said. “We have some students from very diverse cultures.”

With many students accepting an invitation to participate, Koduri described the fair as a success. “This is exactly how I imagined it,” she said.

Assistant Principal Eva Jones liked both the presentations and the participants.

“I think it gives students an opportunity to learn about different cultures,” Jones said. “I also think it gives all students, all adults, a chance to celebrate diversity.”

Tracy Prebish, who teaches German and Spanish, asked students to choose slips of paper that contained questions from a small drum. When did the Berlin Wall fall? That was 1989. What are the colors of the German flag? Those are red, black and yellow.

“I love introducing German culture to Niskayuna students,” Prebish said.

Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]

Categories: Saratoga County

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