MILLBURN, NJ - This past Friday, the Millburn High School World Language Department hosted its annual International Festival, a chance for students and their families to experience culture firsthand.
Previously known as Evening of Culture, this event celebrates the community’s cultural diversity through music, dance, art and food.
Attendees were welcomed into the building by a student-led orchestra performing Debussy's Clair de Lune. A violinist in the group, Stephen Cheng says he performed this piece specifically because he believes it is “one of the most iconic French pieces” and when it comes down to it, this event really gives students the chance to express a culture they learn in school along with their chosen language.
In the auditorium, itself, there was a series of performances, including a performance of “Lean on Me,” where high schoolers representing their respective cultures were welcomed onto the stage in a display of community unity.
Other performances included dance and musical numbers. All the students who chose to perform and work on the stage crew did so independently, organizing classmates and rehearsal schedules on their own time.
Following the performances, the celebration moved to the main gym, where there was a vast variety of authentic international food, all made by students. The food was snapped up quickly by attendees. While eating, students were able to show their peers, teachers, and parents artwork commemorating their year so far in their language classes.
Beyond just having fun on the actual night of International Festival, preparation begins months in advance, namely with student extra credit. By making promotional flyers, cooking food, helping to set up, performing, etc, students have the opportunity to earn a tremendous amount of extra credit.
As double bass performer, Mark Hubertes put it, he enjoys “performing with his friends,” but when it comes down to it, the chance to receive extra credit is “helpful” and a great incentive for all the work that needs to be put in.
Changes to the event this year mainly centered around setup. Previously, each high school language set a theme for the night, such as Versailles for the French classes, and language teachers organized students to help set up a section for each language in the high school cafeteria.
Now, all the languages had communal tables and the event was held in the main gym. Overall, these changes removed the excess stress of planning and executing a different theme each year from the language teachers.
That is not to say it was easy for these teachers to find the time in their busy schedules to organize the event. But as French teacher, Amii Spear put it, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Even though this event does take a lot of both student and faculty work, Spear believes “there’s great value in this event for us [the faculty], the students, and the community,” and that it is important for the department to demonstrate the true breadth of language learning beyond the classroom.