Nov. 14, 2022
Students celebrate International Education Week
International Education Week is in full swing at Fort Couch Middle School and Upper St. Clair High School. Filled with activities, celebrations, speakers, performances and fun, the celebratory week runs from Monday, Nov. 14 through Friday, Nov. 18, 2022.
International Education Week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education and is intended to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences.
Seventh and eighth graders at Fort Couch Middle School will attend a variety of multicultural performances and presentations throughout the week-long celebration. Leading the celebration are world language teachers Erin Lemon, French; Maria Marchionna, Spanish; and Kristin Weaver, German.
“After a two-year hiatus of International Education Week, we are very excited to bring back the performers we have had in the past like Yamoussa Camara West African Drumming and Dancing and Yanlai Dance Company,” Mrs. Weaver said. “Both of these companies provide an engaging, interactive and fun experience for our students. Their energy is contagious! We are equally excited to bring in some new performers: Shovlin Dance Academy, Japan-American Society of Pittsburgh, Nandanik Dance Company, G.T.E.V. D'Lustigen Isartaler and the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center.”
The teachers hope that the middle school students gain a deeper understanding of other cultures beyond the walls of Fort Couch Middle School and Upper St. Clair Township.
“Providing students the opportunity to experience one aspect of another's culture – specifically music and dance – is one way for students to strengthen their understanding of a culture that is not their own,” Mrs. Weaver said. “Gaining these differing perspectives will help our students be more successful as a part of the larger global community.”
The IEW celebration at Upper St. Clair High School was planned by a committee of staff and students. Staff members include teachers Bethany Chase, world language; Nikki Colella and Miranda Jasper, family and consumer sciences; Doug Kirchner, Ron Sivillo and Dr. Steve Torquato, social studies; and Erika Valentine, art.
“The staff members on the committee have contributed to International Education Week for multiple years, and were excited to once again plan events that have become annual traditions at the high school, including Speakers Day and the Global Quiz Bowl,” Mr. Kirchner said. “But they also wanted to design brand new experiences that have never been done before, such as the Human Library and Global Awareness Fair.”
Student committee members include seniors Aashna Banerjee, Emily Barrie, Olivia Fulton and Dakota Worstell as well as juniors Isaac Bernstein, Lucia Miles and Ashe Sobel-Drum.
“The students on the committee are juniors and seniors who have been leaders at the high school in multiple ways,” Mr. Kirchner said. “They were eager to bring together students and staff at the high school through the events of the week.”
This year's theme is “Building Bridges,” with the idea of reconnecting with the world and with each other after facing so many global challenges over the last few years.
“There are also many other staff members and students who were heavily involved in the planning of the week,” Mr. Kirchner said. “Our 'Building Bridges' theme is so fitting, because the amount of connections and collaborations across the high school has been incredible. We would not have been able to design these events without the Fine & Performing Arts department, STEAM teachers, or custodial staff, just to name a few!”
There are numerous events planned throughout the week-long celebration. The week kicked off on Monday, Nov. 14 with a parade throughout the school. On Tuesday, students have the opportunity to attend the Human Library during lunch. Based on the idea that everyone has their own unique story, attendees have the chance to hear from several “open books” who will share their personal stories related to their cultural heritage.
The line-up for Wednesday and Thursday includes several speakers throughout the day. IEW culminates on Friday with an all-day in-school field trip – the Global Awareness Fair. The event will include speakers, performances, art, community service and interactive booths to promote cultural awareness from more than 20 USCHS clubs as well as student groups from Montour, Mt. Lebanon and Chartiers Valley high schools.
“Each event throughout the week has so much value for students, raising cultural awareness, insight, and hopefully empathy, but the event that has the potential to bring together the most people is our first-ever Global Awareness Fair on Friday, Nov. 18,” Mr. Kirchner said. “This all-day event will not only connect students and staff across the building, but across multiple high schools! Hundreds of students from USCHS will attend, along with groups from several high school areas in the area.”
Ebtehal Badawi, an artist from Saudi Arabia who immigrated to the United States 16 years ago, will give a keynote address on the importance of “building bridges” among people and across cultures. As part of her presentation, attendees will be invited to collectively paint a large canvas titled “USC Builds Bridges.” A resident of Jefferson Hills, Ms. Badawi’s work has been featured by The Incline, Next Pittsburgh, and the Almanac.
In addition, representatives from the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center will perform traditional dances and then answer questions related to American Indian culture.
The fair will conclude with a donation drive packing session that benefits Hello Neighbor, a Pittsburgh-based organization committed to supporting recently resettled refugee and immigrant families. Throughout the last several weeks, USCHS students and staff have participated in a competitive school-wide drive to collect bathroom and cleaning supplies as well as personal care items to assist newly arriving refugee families.
The IEW planning committee hopes that this year’s “Building Bridges” theme resonates with the school community and beyond.
“Our goal every year is for students to gain more awareness of and insight into the world around them, whether they’re learning about particular cultures or complex global issues,” Mr. Kirchner said. “This year, in particular, we hope students latch on to our theme of ‘Building Bridges,’ and see how much they actually have in common with others that might seem so different from them, including their own classmates. We want them to consider that everyone has a story to share, that peers they’ve never spoken to before may have important parts of themselves that others don’t get to see, including a rich cultural heritage.”
Mr. Kirchner believes that IEW and this year’s theme are more important than ever.
“With all that seems to divide us, perhaps there’s more that unites us than we realize,” he said. “The world can seem big and scary, and while it’s certainly complex, it’s smaller than we think.”