Culture and diversity celebrated on U.N. Day

At the annual Parade of Nations to mark United Nations Day, students from 60 countries marched, displaying flags and dress from around the world including the United Kingdom and Greece as, from left, Maggie Wilson, Rory Pattman, Daniel Maddoxx and Lauren Priest were among those taking part. — Ken Borsuk photo

At the annual Parade of Nations to mark United Nations Day, students from 60 countries marched, displaying flags and dress from around the world including the United Kingdom and Greece as, from left, Maggie Wilson, Rory Pattman, Daniel Maddoxx and Lauren Priest were among those taking part.
— Ken Borsuk photo

The spirit of multinational cooperation was in the air last Thursday when Julian Curtiss School celebrated the United Nations’ mission and the school’s commitment to diversity and peace at its annual U.N. Day parade.

The parade, which is in its 23rd year, is held in connection with the anniversary of the signing of the United Nations charter and is considered one of the highlights of the school year. This year children from 60 countries marched in the parade around the school’s campus, dressed in the traditional clothes of those countries. They even shared their country’s traditional greetings of “hello” as they passed by a crowd that included First Selectman Peter Tesei, state Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151st District), Selectman David Theis, Superintendent of Schools William McKersie, and members of the Board of Education.

“Here at Julian Curtiss we march as an international and diverse community of learners,” school principal Trish McGuire said, noting that 30 languages were represented at the school. “We march to celebrate the diversity of our school and honor unity and peace in our small district. The students are the future, and we depend on them to lead us to a world that is more united.”

The U.N.’s charter was signed in 1945, and since then Oct. 24 has been celebrated as United Nations Day. The parade was held that day and the United Nations flag was raised both at the school and outside Town Hall. Greenwich resident Joseph Verner Reed, who is the longest serving United Nations under secretary-general and a special adviser to the secretary-general, appeared at the school to show his support. A guest speaker at virtually all of the parades, Mr. Reed brought with him a personal message from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that sent greetings to the staff, parents and students at the school.

“We are living through a period of profound turmoil, transition and transformation,” the secretary-general wrote. “With so much at stake, the United Nations must keep pace across the spectrum of its activities. … On this United Nations Day, let us reaffirm our individual commitment and our collective resolve to living up to the ideals of the United Nations charter and work together to build a better world.”

With that in mind, Mr. Reed stressed his deep personal commitment to the United Nations and praised the school for celebrating its mission.

“The United Nations is at the center of activities that help build a safer and more secure world,” Mr. Reed said. “Our world is a troubled one. We face immense challenges. I have served the parliament of man for 30 years and I have a passionate conviction for the enduring mission of the United Nations. It is a distinguished honor to be here.”

The crowd also included eager parents and members of the school community happy to celebrate a significant day at Julian Curtiss, which is a school of world languages in the district. One of those parents doubled as a speaker at the event. Igor Garafulic, the father of two Julian Curtiss students, represented the U.N. there as the chief adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean at the United Nations Development Program.

In his remarks, Mr. Garafulic noted that the U.N. provides food to 90 million people in 75 countries, vaccinates 58% of the world’s children and saves approximately 2.5 million lives through that effort each year while assisting more than 34 million refugees and people fleeing war and famine and having peacekeeping forces over four continents. And while not operating at quite the level, he said he believed the U.N. and Julian Curtiss had many similarities.

“We share values like diversity and integrity and collaboration and solidarity,” Mr. Garafulic said. “We speak many languages at work, and so do the families at Julian Curtiss. And we take tests. Yes, kids, you heard correctly, parents also take tests at work. My test deals with culture and language. I learned there is much more than reading and listening and writing a foreign language. At Julian Curtiss you are offered a great opportunity to learn Spanish or French. Dear students, be mindful that culture comes attached to those languages.”

Mr. Garafulic said students had the opportunity to learn from the classmate sitting next to them and that was a unique thing. Students also had a chance to speak at the event, as Stella Stantini and Rodrigo Yturralde discussed a recent trip by students to the United Nations and how they work to make the community a better place just as the U.N. tries to make a better world.

“At school we work together to create peace,” Rodrigo said. “When our friends are fighting we act like a peacemaker to solve the conflicts among them. By working together as one big team we welcome new students from around the world into our community to create friendly relationships. At JC we have different cultures, languages and ethnicities working together to make this world a better place.”

The parade was only part of the festivities. The next night the school held an International Food Tasting with dishes from all over the world and performances by Peruvian dancers courtesy of Danny Yachay Peruvian Dancer and a traditional Chinese lion dance courtesy of Steve DeMasco’s Shaolin Studios King Fu in Cos Cob.

“At Julian Curtiss, we can make a world of difference,” Ms. McGuire reminded everyone at the parade.

 

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