By on June 24, 2015

They organized the World Cultures Fair with the help of a grant from the Melrose Education Foundation.”

By Aaron Leibowitz

MELROSE (Posted Jun. 4, 2015 at 11:52 AM) – More than 80 students and their families celebrated their own cultures and those of others from around the world at the first World Cultures Fair held at Melrose’s Roosevelt Elementary School last Thursday.

The event was inspired by Melrose High School’s Global Education in Melrose program, designed to foster students’ global awareness and encourage the study of foreign language and culture. GEM co-leaders Liz DeSelm and Brooke Sulahain decided those same principles should apply to younger students as well, and they organized the World Cultures Fair with the help of a grant from the Melrose Education Foundation.

“I learned about the bigger world later in life than I wanted,” Sulahain said Thursday as attendees poured into the Roosevelt gymnasium. “I think it’s important for the students to become more globally minded and to learn that difference is good.”
Dozens of posterboards filled the periphery of the gym, reflecting the hard work students had done to research the history, religion and culture of the countries they chose to present. Students received a question sheet and a make-believe passport, adding a sticker to their passport each time they could find an answer to questions such as, ‘Can you find a country with a monarchy?’ and ‘Can you find at least two countries with just two colors on their flag?’

Many students researched countries to which they had no personal connection, while others seized the opportunity to showcase their own familial roots to their classmates.

“There definitely is a celebration component — ‘this is where I come from’ — which is something that’s probably not talked about nearly enough in the classroom,” DeSelm said. “It’s a celebration of the mix we have. And the mix is good.”
Third grader Nora Mounsif and her friend Maryam stood next to their poster and beamed with pride as they taught peers about Morocco — alongside their parents who grew up there.

“I liked it because a lot of people knew I was from Morocco, but didn’t know a lot about Morocco,” Mounsif said. For example, she explained, “most people mistake Morocco for not being in the Sahara Desert.”

Around the hallway in the cafeteria, attendees sampled foods that students and parents had prepared for the event. Among the options were South African beef pie, Dutch spice cookies, Micronesian ginger lime marinade, Egyptian-style cookies, Portuguese sweet rice and pavlova from New Zealand.

Midway through the hour-long celebration, attendees gathered in the gym to watch seven-year-old Dante Gell perform the national dance of Chile. Gell, who attends the Parlin School in Everett, has been dancing since the age of 3 and has traveled internationally to showcase Chilean dance.

Gell was accompanied by Rosa Zullo, who works for the Chilean consulate of Boston and was asked to incorporate Chilean culture into Thursday’s event.

“We want to keep our roots and pass it to the children,” Zullo said, “even if he was born here.”

The evening — a sticky one in the non-air conditioned Roosevelt gym — concluded with a raffle for students as a reward for collecting enough stickers to fill up their passports. In spite of the heat, several hundred people attended.

For more information on the MHS Global Education in Melrose program, visit

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