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By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Students, teachers, advisers and parents from Wilson County Schools gathered at Mt. Juliet Elementary School on Thursday evening to celebrate the various nations English as a second language students claim as their native land.

From Mexico to Africa, France to Japan, the students demonstrated the culture from the various nations. They showcased art, displayed storyboards, sang, played instruments and featured native foods.

Tracy Thompson with Carroll-Oakland School, Jo Thacker with Springdale Elementary School, Chelsea Howard with West Elementary School, Sarai Lewis with Stoner Creek Elementary School and other teachers brought items to display or helped students showcase their displays.

Mt. Juliet Elementary School students sang songs; Prisha Bangena played her violin; Shweta Arura, Nidhi Gupta and Simran Batra cooked and served food from India; and the Futuro Organization, an all-inclusive professional Hispanic student organization at Cumberland University, showcased the Phoenix, which is a wooden bird student organizations paint for display at events.

“This is our Wilson County Schools’ multi-cultural celebration,” said Mt. Juliet Elementary School English as a second language teacher Tracy Brown. “We open up to our entire county. Schools come to share our great diversity in Wilson County. [Middle Tennessee State University] is planning to be here, elementary schools, artwork projects, games, Cumberland University is coming, [Lebanon High School] HOSA. We’ve invited everyone to come and share their culture, their diversity, and gain knowledge and understanding from everyone.”

Brown has about 20 students in her ESL classes, but there are about 45 overall, she said.

“There are schools who have as few as 10 and those with almost 100,” said Wilson County Schools ESL coordinator Julie Harrison.

What started out as a day event for MJES students has turned into to the night event for everyone to celebrate “our wonderful ethnicities and differences in our schools,” Brown said. “We need to share that and acknowledge that.”

Teacher Glenda McKinney with Tuckers Crossroads School, said her students studied Native Americans and wanted to expand to other countries such as Peru.

“We decided to expand to indigenous people in Spanish-speaking countries,” she said. “I had read them [a Peruvian folktale]. They rewrote some Peruvian folktales.”

Ashlee Hargrove works at Rutland Elementary School and said, “We have students from all different cultures. We have a lot of students from Uzbekistan. We have students from Egypt and students from all over the world. We have students from Madagascar, the Philippines, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia. We have a very diverse population at Rutland Elementary [School].”