TOTOWA, NJ - In today's climate of divisiveness across the nation, one particular school in Totowa is making an effort to bridge the gap and create an atmosphere of unity.
Washington Park School held its annual "Nations' Night" on Feb. 16, an evening to celebrate the diversity in the world. Fourth grade students performed songs in various languages with the common theme of tolerance, acceptance and togetherness.
According to Patricia Capitelli, superintendent, the event is in its 19th year of being held.
"We raised $650 with this year's Nations' Night," said Capitelli. "Our goal is $1,000, which would provide cleft surgery for four children for Smile Train, and we are going to continue to work to meet our goal."
Capitelli added that it was the second year that the event's proceeds have benefited the non-profit organization and charity providing corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates. Founded in 1999, Smile Train is headquartered in Manhattan. It provides free corrective cleft surgery in 87 countries, training local doctors and providing hospital funding for the procedures, according to its website.
During the evening, students performed songs from Latin America, Native America, Italy, Polynesia, East Africa, and recited a poem "We Are One World." Music teachers Matt Carl and Joseph Latka conducted the musical accompaniment. Students also provided instrumental accompaniment for various songs performed.
After the performances, a Smile Train informational video was presented and attendees were treated to a buffet dinner of international specialties.
"Our nation is diverse and it is important for students to understand and respect different cultures," Capitelli explained. "Nations' Night was a night for our children and their families to celebrate and embrace all cultures and foster a climate of cohesion and unity."
Capitelli added that lessons were held inside the classrooms leading up to the evening.
"Teachers worked with our fourth grade students and the students also sold bracelets where the proceeds went to Smile Train," she said. "They did a lot, which culminated up to the event."
For more information on Smile Train, or how to donate visit, my.smiletrain.org/fundraiser/washingtonparkschoolstudents.