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Immersed in a 'Culturefest' at HS North

The event, designed to give students a hands-on understanding of different cultures, is Thursday night.

It’s a chance for students to immerse themselves in another culture and better understand diversity.

That’s what Social Justice Advisor John Kerrigan had to say about the school’s upcoming Culturefest. The event, which he says, “allows the students to better understand one another and become more prepared to work with people from various backgrounds,” was borne out of Kerrigan’s experience as a student at Raritan High School, Hazlet.

“I attended Raritan High School and belonged to a small group called SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions),” Kerrigan said. “Our group branched out in 2002 and also focused on cultures and diversity. During that year, we organized a Diversity Dinner, where we each brought in food that represented our heritage.”

The Raritan group experienced the music of Egypt, dance of Ireland and other culture-specific arts and activities as well as the food. The night was especially enlightening for Kerrigan, who said that despite the fact that he had known most of his classmates since kindergarten, he had no idea knowledge of their heritage.

“It was a night I’ll never forget,” he said. So, he wanted to bring the same concept and enlightenment to Middletown when he started teaching in the district four years ago.

Diversity education became a priority from the heart for Kerrigan. So, he decided at North he would run with the concept and, with the help of the other Social Justice co-advisor, Gail McLaughlin, students, area business and community organizations, make it an all-encompassing, larger-than-ever event.

“We enlisted the help of every club in the school, local businesses, and community organizations and had a packed cafeteria filled with food, trifolds, music, a fashion show, games and more,” Kerrigan said.  “The feedback we got was very positive, so we decided to run it again in 2010 and 2011. This year, we have decided to change the format a little to allow participants to fully immerse themselves in one culture for an extended period of time (20 minutes), instead of walking around the cafeteria.”

That new immersion experience will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. at Middletown High School North, Tindall Road, in the 1200s wing.

There is a $5 donation, which will be applied to future diversity programs. Guests can select five activities to participate in, including food demonstrations, Parkour, hair art, games, drum circles, dancing and more. Local businesses will also be providing complimentary samples of various cultural cuisines.

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