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Murray Journal

Twin Peaks students share cultures as cultural night tradition continues

May 27, 2020 12:41PM ● By Julie Slama

Twin Peaks third-grade student Samuela Olive, dressed in a traditional Tongan clothing, holds a conch shell at this school’s cultural night. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Twin Peaks third-grader Samuela Olive held a conch shell, wearing traditional Tongan clothing at this school’s cultural night. His 14-year-old brother, Lehi, then demonstrated how to blow the shell to make a sound.

“It’s really hard,” Lehi said. “I lick my lips and put my mouth right on the hole, but I have to get the right pitch. It took me about two weeks to learn.”

The two brothers along with their family were at the Tonga booth, which also had a display that included items representing the culture and, like many of the other booths representing cultures, sampling of their food. Their cousin was one of the many dancers from Tonga and Samoa heritage that performed in three dances.

Twin Peaks’ cultural night began eight years ago when PTA President Paige Janzen noticed the diversity at the school.

“I noticed Twin Peaks’ population and that we had a lot of kids from different countries—from Mexico, Central and South America to the Middle East and India,” she said. “I looked around and thought wouldn’t it be neat if we shared our culture and learned something about them. I thought if we celebrated our culture, it would bring our school and community closer and broaden people’s understanding.”

That first year, she invited a couple of the students and families as well as returned missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The next year, she invited classes to adopt a country and culture.

“That worked out OK, except it was during testing time,” she said.

Since then, students and their families who have lived in different countries have been invited to share as well as any student who wished to have a booth on a country they have traveled to or researched.

This year after getting names of interested students, Janzen passed the reins over to Christina Linke, who helped her with the cultural night last year.

“When she said that it was going to be her last year two years ago, I couldn’t let it end,” Linke said. “It’s something that is important for our school. When I first came to culture night, I walked around and saw food from around the world where we can’t get it from anywhere else and kids learning from each other and I was sold. So, I said that if she taught me last year, I’d take it over with her help this year. It’s something I’d like to see bigger, to grow.”

Linke said she also may look into the community to bring in others to include with the school cultural night.

“I’m shocked at how many families there are from different countries. In fourth grade, there are 64 students and 12 are from different countries. This year, we have Egypt and Japan, and we’ve never had a booth from those countries before. I love the food, but I also love when there’s interaction with crafts and performances as well,” she said.

For example, at the Scottish booth, students could weave their own tartan and at the Japanese booth, they could fold origami.

Many booths, including Mexico, Korea, Navajo, Vietnam, Germany, Samoa and Brazil, brought food samples. At some booths, such as Sweden and Costa Rica, students wore costumes.

“My grandma brought it back for me,” said fifth-grader Melody Gonzales about her traditional dress. “My dad and his family are from Costa Rica. It’s very beautiful, with a super warm ocean and good food—rice, tuna and picadillo.”

Melody was with fifth-grader Sarissa Peterson and sixth-grader Maya Compton.

Sarissa already had sampled the gelato at the Italian booth.

“It’s really good,” she said. “I like to experience all the different booths.”

Maya, who attends Bonneville Junior High, came at the invitation of her friends.

“I like the food and what’s on the posters,” she said, adding that she would like her school to start a cultural night. “It’s fun to experience different cultures.”