Kids go around the world in a day

From Caribbean limbo to British rock ’n’ roll, the songs and dances performed Friday night by students at Cerritos Elementary School had an unmistakably global flair.

Preschoolers sang in French while wearing homemade berets, and third-graders danced to Beatles classics such as “She Loves You.”

It was the school’s International Festival, an annual celebration of cultures that has been going on for decades.

Cerritos alumni and parents congregated at the school to enjoy food that was as international as the entertainment and watch the students perform.

“I think it brings our whole community together,” said Carla Reiber, a Cerritos teacher and the festival’s head organizer this year .

It’s also a chance for students to share what they’ve learned about other countries, Reiber said.

“It helps us work the arts into social studies and geography,” she said.

Reiber’s students represented Britain through their renditions of Beatles songs.

Preschool teacher Mary Ashdjian said her students caught on quickly to French, as she taught them the song “Fais Do Do.”

“It’s a chance for them to express themselves in different languages and cultures,” she said.

The festival started decades ago as a smaller affair — a potluck of international food — and has grown into a celebration that draws hundreds of people, teachers said.

Teacher Susan MacFarlane said the festival has been going on for at least 35 years. She should know, as she has been at Cerritos that long.

“It’s gotten bigger and bigger,” she said.

On Friday night, parents lounged on blankets watching the performances and formed long lines to buy carne asada tacos and tamales.

Cindy Rodriguez, 14, and Thalia Sotelo, 14, graduated from Cerritos two years ago but attended the festival anyway.

“It’s fun coming back to our school and remembering all the good times we had,” Thalia said.

A group of first- and second-graders sang a tune about how one says hi in languages such as Spanish and Swahili.

“My favorite part was the Hawaiian,” said Alyssa Pizarro, 7.

For parent Tina Mainferme, the authentic tamales trucked in from East L.A. were just one of the delights of a pleasant evening.

“You see the kids perform, and you get to support the school,” she said.


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