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Rockwood Schools Honor Diversity through International Day, Celebration of Nations Events

Ellisville Elementary ESOL teacher Julie Harrell poses for a photo with three students.March 17, 2023

The gymnasiums of Ellisville and Westridge elementary schools acquired an international flair on March 10 when the schools showcased their cultural diversity.

At Ellisville Elementary, students and staff traveled around the world during the school’s International Day festivities.

International Day at Ellisville is an annual tradition during which students represent their countries and share cultural traditions. This year, the event featured 20 countries, including Brazil, India, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, South Korea and South Sudan.

ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher Julie Harrell organized the event with support from Principal Dr. Kim Rowan, Assistant Principal Brian Gentz and teachers Katie Brown and Rachel Aguilar.

“We wanted to tap into the wealth of knowledge and perspectives that our Ellisville family has right in its midst,” Harrell said. “We wanted the entire student body and staff to benefit from the authentic exposure and beautiful tapestry that makes up our student body.”

Harrell said this was an opportunity to spotlight and bring awareness to all Ellisville Elementary students.

Westridge Elementary students representing different countries participate in a Parade of Nations ceremony on March 10.At Westridge Elementary, the Celebration of Nations event remains an annual tradition the school community looks forward to each year.

ESOL teacher Dawn Frye facilitated the evening occasion and has been coordinating it for seven years along with Principal Dr. Dan Gieseler.

“Our goal was to connect, build and strengthen our community,” Frye said. “It was so nice to see families meet others from their native countries for that sense of home and culture bonding. Everyone took pride in sharing their heritage and culture and inviting us into their world.”

The event featured nearly 25 countries. Participants could sample various cuisines brought in by families, and they heard from students Anayah Shah and Sam Chuunga, who helped serve as the event emcees.

“They had two weeks to prepare for the event,” Frye said. “Anayah and Sam were big motivators to their peers and brought our Parade of Nations vision to life.”

During the Parade of Nations, students representing their native countries carried native flags, introduced themselves to the audience and shared unique fun facts about their homeland.

Srilatha Ramakrishna, a Westridge parent, was in attendance.

“The Celebration of Nations was such an amazing and beautiful event,” she said. “I loved how people from around the world gathered under one roof to show how proud they are of their heritage and culture. We had fun preparing for this event.”

Three Ellisville Elementary students pose for a photo during the school's International Day celebration on March 10. Students and staff at Ellisville Elementary check out a display during the school's International Day celebration on March 10 Two Westridge Elementary students emcee the Parade of Nations ceremony during the school's Celebration of Nations event. Two Westridge Elementary students pose for a photo during the school's Celebration of Nations event.