Julian Curtiss celebrates U.N. Day

John Ferris Robben Friday’s parade had the pride of many nations as students, including third grader Veronica Ruiz, holding flag from Chile, took part. In the background, from left, are holding fifth grader Juliana Panqueba holding a Colombian flag and first grader Daniel Xu, fourth grader Antonio Ortiz and third grader Nancy Kessler.

John Ferris Robben
Friday’s parade had the pride of many nations as students, including third grader Veronica Ruiz, holding flag from Chile, took part. In the background, from left, are holding fifth grader Juliana Panqueba holding a Colombian flag and first grader Daniel Xu, fourth grader Antonio Ortiz and third grader Nancy Kessler.

More than 50 flags were flown by the students of Julian Curtiss School during the magnet school’s annual United Nations Day parade.

The diverse student body proudly represented their nationalities in front of a collection of parents, faculty and town leaders, embodying the school motto of “60 countries, 30 languages, one great school.”

Principal Trish McGuire led the event on the elementary school’s front lawn, presenting her students to a crowd that included United Nations Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed, Superintendent of Schools William McKersie, state Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151), and several members of the Board of Education. The parade marked the 69th anniversary of the United Nations’ establishment, and has been a Julian Curtiss tradition for 24 years.

“The face of the United States and Greenwich is changing. Julian Curtiss has always been a school with an international flavor, but as racial, cultural and linguistic diversity increases, so does the importance in our role in teaching children to live and work together respectfully,” Ms. McGuire said. “Today is a symbol of that respect and unity.”

Students donned creative outfits ranging from fake mustaches to full traditional dresses to represent their countries in the proper fashion. The school’s choraleers provided the afternoon’s entertainment, offering greeting songs in French and Spanish with support from their classmates in the parade.

Keynote remarks were delivered by Mr. Reed, a Greenwich resident who has attended the parade since 1993. Through his career, Mr. Reed has served the U.S. government and United Nations in a number of roles, most recently as under secretary-general and special adviser for the United Nations. He delivered a message to the Julian Curtiss School on behalf of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who commended the school’s recognition of the international peacekeeping organization.

“Julian Curtiss is a distinguished school with great leadership from Principal McGuire and the faculty,” Mr. Reed said. “Today we celebrate United Nations, your united nations.”

Dr. McKersie spoke as well, rallying the crowd with a cheer for everyone in attendance.

“Greenwich, you are the heart of the world. Today Julian Curtiss symbolizes that with some 60 nations and 30 languages,” Dr. McKersie told the audience. “The world comes to Greenwich, it comes to Julian Curtiss, it gets educated and goes back out to lead the world.”

Two of Julian Curtiss’s leaders in training were able to share their stories of success at the school. Fifth graders Sofia Ruiz and Kaoru Shimamura were both unable to speak English when they first arrived at Julian Curtiss, but with the help of the school’s faculty and ESL programs, both students have gained full control over the language.

Sofia was born in Switzerland to a Chilean mother and Swiss father, and speaks both German and Spanish at home.

“When I first came to Julian Curtiss, I couldn’t understand anything my teacher said to me. Today, after three years in ESL and many years in the U.S., I speak English like an American,” she said. “I’m glad my parents sent me to Julian Curtiss, because as you can see, the students come from all over the world.”

Kaoru’s family arrived in Greenwich from Japan in 2010. Though he didn’t know English initially, by the time he reached second grade he was able to help another Japanese student make the transition in the classroom. As he continues his final year at Julian Curtiss, Kaoru recognizes the advantage of being bilingual as he pursues his dreams.

“When I grow up I want to be a doctor. Speaking English and Japanese will be important so that I can help everybody and be the best doctor I can be,” he said.

Closing out the afternoon event with continued theme of unity, the students recited Disney’s It’s a Small World as they marched back to their classrooms, reminding everyone in attendance that a small corner of the town can hold a whole world of diversity.

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