18th Year Of International Fair Teaches Diversity and Acceptance

Echo Rogers, Feature Writer

Jodie Behunin poses in front of the Spanish flag. She spent two years in Spain through her church. (Broadcaster/Echo Rogers)

The International Fair brought the world to the Hershey community again.

On March 31, 2017, the Hershey Early Childhood Center (ECC) and the Hershey Primary Elementary School hosted the 18th Annual International Fair. From crafts in the art rooms to Mexican food in the cafeteria, all students had an opportunity to learn about new cultures.

Like every other year, the International Fair featured a variety of countries. This year there were 25 in total. Model United Nations (Model UN), a Hershey High School club, hosted a stand for Antarctica, Venezuela, Egypt, Greece, and China. These in addition to Asian and South American countries were set up in the ECC. New countries in this building were Syria and Palestine.

European countries, however, were spread out in the Elementary school. Hungary and Netherlands were some of the new countries there. German, French, and Spanish club all attended and represented their countries in the Elementary school, too. In both schools, 90% of country representatives were either from those countries or had visited them before.

Besides talking to the various countries, students this year had an opportunity to participate in a wide variety of activities, including playing soccer in the gym and making lotus flowers in the art room with the assistance of AP art students. Different countries had activities, too. The family representing China brought in plates full of Hershey’s Kisses and gave them to students who could pick up the candy with chopsticks.

The auditorium at the Elementary school was also filled with performances throughout the night. From Irish dancers to traditional Chinese dances, students could watch many different performances from different countries.

The fair began with its annual parade led by HHS senior Jason Guo in his traditional lion costume. All elementary students from different countries followed Guo through both schools and waved the flags from the country they were from. At the end of the parade, the students were each recognized on stage in the Elementary school auditorium.

Guo started out the parade by saying, “Last year. Let’s do this.”

Guo has attended the International Fair since kindergarten and has led the parade since 2nd grade.

Maria Cenaida Speicher poses beside her Ecuador stand on March 31, 2017. Speicher lived in Ecuador until she was 23. (Broadcaster/Echo Rogers)

“I will miss the fair a lot,” Guo said. “It promotes cultural diversity and acceptance in our community, and that’s something we often times lack in today’s society.”

For Guo, this fair also gave his parents an opportunity to get involved in the Hershey community and help out. Jodie Behunin, fair attendee, was also happy for that opportunity. Behunin had spent two years in Spain as a missionary. She was happy to teach all the students about the culture of Spain and she would recommend any student to take an opportunity to travel if given the chance.

“It’s a great experience,” Behunin said.

 Another fair attendee, Maria Cenaida Speicher, would agree that traveling is a great experience, but Speicher would encourage students to visit Ecuador. She lived there until she met her husband and decided to move to the United States at the age of 23.

“I used to walk a long way through the jungle for hours and hours,” Speicher said.

She misses these walks because through the jungle, she was able to see beautiful animals and meet other smaller villages full of people. If it wasn’t her husband, Speicher said, she would still be in Ecuador.

Both Speicher and Behunin talked to many Elementary school students that night which gave these kids had an opportunity to see how both of them weren’t that different from them.

“[The students] are always surprised by how similar some things are even half way across the world,” Saima Mumtaz, head of the fair, said.

Even high schoolers had an opportunity to see that as well. Many of them not only attended the fair but also volunteered. Some of these students worked with Model UN to represent three new countries: Egypt, Greece, and Venezuela.

“The high school volunteers have become a vital part of the Fair,” Mumtaz said.

Despite Mini-THON falling on the same night as International Fair, many high schoolers still attended to help set up and assist the country representatives. Throughout the week, HHS students missed their classes to go to the ECC and Elementary school to educate students on the country they represented. They played Kahoot games, danced, and did interactive presentations with hieroglyphics. Mumtaz feels the high schoolers really connect with the Elementary students.

Lulu Xu helps an Elementary student make a lotus flower on March 31, 2017. Xu is in Art National Honors Society and was volunteering in the art room. (Broadcaster/Echo Rogers)

“The HHS students bring in a new sense of energy and enthusiasm into the classroom presentations,” Mumtaz said.

Overall, the International Fair is quite a challenge to put together but Mumtaz says it’s always worth it when she sees all the smile and excitement in the students. More importantly, Mumtaz said, it teaches the students about new people, places, and cultures through the fair and the hands on presentations during their classes.

“HES International Fair teaches students to celebrate our diversity and find unity in our similarities,” Mumtaz said. “IF [International Fair] really is a wonderful interactive teaching tool.”