WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange’s multicultural spirit was on full display at the St. Cloud Elementary School’s annual Diversity Night on Friday, when more than 200 students and their families were joined by school teachers and staff in an evening that included sampling international foods and presentations of ethnic dances.

St. Cloud’s cafeteria was turned into a multicultural café. Families donated their favorite cultural dishes, including shortbread cookies from Ireland and Scotland, crepes and madeleines from France, pierogies from Poland, black beans and rice from the Dominican Republic, Peruvian chicken and rice, Filipino pork and shrimp eggrolls, deviled chick peas from Sri Lanka and more. Many people signed up to receive the Diversity Night cookbook.

There was also a world map projected onto the cafeteria wall, where students placed stickers with their names. Each sticker showed where the student’s family originally came from. At the end of the evening, stickers with the students’ names filled five continents.

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“Schools with this kind of diversity are rare in America,” said Principal Eric Price. “It is wonderful to see kids getting along so well, and doing so well academically. By being in such a diverse school, they learn empathy and gain a better understanding of people from all backgrounds.”

Highlighting the evening were cultural dance performances by St. Cloud students, in which Nora Hause did an Irish step dance and Malena and Juliana Candido performed a Spanish folklore dance.

Families also bid on gift baskets that were put together by the PTA class parents, with proceeds benefitting the school.

“It’s wonderful to see how the parents come together in each class to put together the baskets,” said India Williams, chair of the PTA’s Communication & Technology Committee. “It’s another way this event helps build community.”

Adding to the fun was a raffle for several door prizes. The students helped sell the gift basket raffle tickets.

“This event is another great way for the students to get to know each other better. They get to learn where everyone is from,” said Sara Simon, vice president of the PTA Ways and Means Committee. “We also get them involved in the gift basket raffle to better understand how to make choices.”

Pictured above, Diversity Night attendees sample an array of international foods; Principal Eric Price joins students at the projected world map, where they placed stickers with their names on countries where their families came from; Malena and Juliana Candido perform a Spanish folklore dance; and Nora Hause performs an Irish step dance