More than 100 students, most of them newly arrived immigrants, recently enjoyed their first American-style Thanksgiving meal at Union City High School.
The hearty meal and a background presentation on the history of Thanksgiving were served up after school by volunteers from the School-Based Youth Services Program and the Bilingual Education Program.
The festive celebration, part of the District’s “Port of Entry” program services, marks the eighth consecutive year that the holiday meal has been served in the high school.
“We have a comprehensive program to help integrate newly arrived students not only into the District, but also to expose them to as much American history and culture as possible,” explains Nivia Rojas, Director of the School-Based Youth Services Program.
Chris Abbato, Director of Bilingual Education, says the holiday meal began with the opening of the new high school eight years ago.
“Besides the language barriers most of these students experience, they can also face cultural barriers in their new home and since the new high school opened, we have made this a staple of our cultural immersion efforts,” says Mr. Abbato. “Learning a new language is very important, of course, but it’s also important that these students gain an understanding of the new culture that they will be a part of for many years to come,” he adds.
The Thanksgiving meal included all the traditional dishes, from turkey with gravy or cranberries to mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. To show the students how easy it is to integrate their own culture and cuisine with American food, ample servings of beans and rice were also a popular item.