Westhampton Beach Middle School community read and cultural fair unites students, teachers and families

Westhampton Beach Middle School community members. thumbnail256399

Each year, the Westhampton Beach Middle School hosts an outstanding community read program where students, teachers, community members and families unite to read the same book and collectively experience how the power of storytelling brings people together. This year, the event expanded to include an impressive cultural fair.

The cultural fair was spearheaded by community read advisers Kelly Massaro and Yvonne Perez, who wanted to showcase how unique and varied their students’ experiences, backgrounds and cultures are following the collective reading of “Libertad” by Alma Fullerton. The book illustrates the harrowing journey that two young boys take to find their father in America after losing their mother in Guatemala. It resonates with themes of love, perseverance and hope.

As part of the cultural fair and community read night, families created tables to represent their country of origin, and parents and grandparents who had immigrated to America shared their immigration stories. Families cooked food, shared music, and displayed traditional clothing and artifacts from their countries. Attendees received a passport to have stamped as they visited each of the tables. Additionally, high school students performed a traditional Dance of the Deer from Guatemala with their family members during the evening.

In the weeks leading up to the event, students assisted in the planning, created poster boards and videos, and built a giant Guatemalan kite that honored the traditional Guatemalan Kite Festival. They also created an authentic El Salvadorian dish with the assistance of the middle school’s chef and tried a variety of foods from around the world as part of the school’s lunch menu.

Further assisting with the event was Nicole Spatz and Lauren O'Hearn, who were instrumental in bringing the English as a new language community together to get involved.

“The evening was one of the most powerful that I have ever participated in in my 20 years of working at Westhampton Beach,” said Massaro. “I felt so honored to stand witness to the power of our students’ and families’ ‘Community Hurricane.’ What a generous and beautiful display of love, acceptance, understanding, diversity, family and friendship. We all left with our hearts and our stomachs full.”

Date Added: 3/19/2024