Paularino students celebrate diversity

Hand-colored flags lined the walls and cut-outs of people of different nationalities decorated the stage for a performance celebrating the community's diverse dance and musical heritage.

Paularino Elementary School hosted its annual Multicultural Night on Friday with homemade food, and student and professional performances that crossed a spectrum of the world.

"We want each child to be proud and understand their unique background," said interim Principal Bonnie Swann. "Paularino is a salad bowl. Every flavor is important; every child is important."

Brenda Catania, a mother of three, started Multicultural Night nine years ago after deciding to expand upon a Cinco de Mayo celebration she was planning.

The event gives the students at the Costa Mesa school a chance to broaden their cultural experiences, said first-grade teacher Pamela Bentson.

This year, the Parent Teacher Assn.-sponsored event attracted many families who brought cultural dishes to share, like South African frikkadels, chicken and rice, corn bread and hot dogs.

Fifth-grade student Noelle Sczesny tried a Japanese staple for the first time.

"I had some sushi," she said. "It was really good."

Boys with stick-on mustaches and wearing bright miniature plastic sombreros dotted the students sitting on the floor waiting for the show. One, dressed as a pint-sized matador in full regalia, waved his Mexican flag throughout the show.

Performances included Polynesian dancers from Tupua Productions, the Ballet Folklorico Revolucion, "Visions of India," and students in poodle skirts and white T-shirts twisting to the sounds of the '50s.

"The dancers were really good," said fifth-grade student Elizabeth Erazo, who liked the Polynesian number.

Third-grade students Laurencio Andres and Chris Espinoza said their favorite performance was of traditional Korean music by the Parks family.

At the end, three boys came out with hats. Attached to the hats were what appeared to be long ribbons that twirled out as they moved their heads.

"They are really talented," Chris said.

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

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