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Freedom Hill Elementary Hosts International Day

School celebrates the global diversity of its student body.

Smiling faces of Freedom Hill ES students show how similar people are the world over.

Smiling faces of Freedom Hill ES students show how similar people are the world over. Photo by Donna Manz.

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Evmorfia Dimitriadis, 3rd grade, and her brother Stavros, 5th grade, representing Greece, and Talia Hendricks-Stracuzzi, representing Guatemala.

— Freedom Hill Elementary School [FHES] celebrated the diversity of its student population with an enthusiastically-attended International Day on March 30. Children dressed in garb of their native lands, parents prepared dishes representing their cultures, and families applauded the 160-member student parade. Forty-five countries were represented in the parade, from Australia and Afghanistan to Venezuela and Zimbabwe. Students in Togolese Republic and Nepal dress marched along with children in elaborate Greek and El Salvador clothing. Children waved flags of standard-bearers of democracy to repressive governments from which their families fled. Organized by PTA chairs Sandra Reyes and Erika Martinez, International Day focused on the "melting-pot" character of the school and the area, Reyes said.

"You represent what is best about this community," said FHES principal Tim Stanley to students and families. "Our families come from all over the world. Each day, you have the opportunity to learn from one another about the traditions of others.

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Freedom Hill ES students, in colorful native dress, parade through a crowd of classmates and family during the school’s annual International Day recognition.

"The world is connected now," said Stanley. "What you learn here can give you hope for a better world."

Families lined the blacktop where the flag-waving paraders marched, and the Freedom Hill singers led an up-tempo Kenyan song. Parents snapped still shots or filmed the colorful pageant.

"This develops cultural pride of the school community," said first grade teacher Alicia McGuire, noting that the state of Virginia has a cultural diversity SOL. "We’re studying how we’re all similar, and this shows we’re all connected."

Children learned things about other cultures and about their own heritage. Second-grader Zain Khwaja returned to Pakistan with his family to celebrate the Eid festival last October. "I know there are bad conditions there because of the bomb blasts," Zain articulated. "I wasn’t afraid but my mom was."

Matthew Reyes, the sixth-grade son of International Day chair Reyes, summed up the essence of international relations. "Even though people are from different countries, they have the same interests in school and life that everyone else does.

"Even though we seem different, we’re a lot alike."