Thanksgiving Dinner brings American culture to ELL Students

Thanksgiving Dinner brings American culture to ELL Students

Dishing out some food for a Thanksgiving dinner, Ms. Bullock helps out with the special occasion. For some, the Nov. 19-feast was a new experience of American culture. (Photo courtesy of District 225)

Inaara Tajuddin, staff reporter

South’s annual English Language Learners (ELL) Thanksgiving Feast included a culturally diverse group of students who were brought together to experience a unique American holiday: Thanksgiving. The feast was held on Nov. 19.

According to Karen LeBlanc, coordinator of the Thanksgiving Feast, the dinner, for many of the students, was their first encounter with traditional American cuisine and the holiday itself.

“It is nice for them to have the opportunity to learn a little bit about some of the traditional foods that we eat for Thanksgiving and to just bring the holiday to their attention so that it is not just a series of days when we don’t have school,” LeBlanc said.

For sophomore Florencia Cuadros, the experience left her with a crucial understanding of Thanksgiving that she felt was important to have.

“It was beautiful,” Cuadros said. “I loved it, and I think that having a special day to say thanks is wonderful. I saw little kids saying thanks for their families, their school and opportunities. I think something like that is amazing. I have no words.”

This Thanksgiving marked the 21st year the program has been held at South. LeBlanc, who originally brought forth the idea, still remembers the first Thanksgiving they held.

“We actually cooked all the food by ourselves and set the table,” LeBlanc said. “There were no paper plates, we had real plates, and we did the dishes afterwards. It was a kind of all-day experience for all the kids in the program, but they really enjoyed sitting down with the teachers and the celebration, so we just continued the dinner each year.”

Not only were there teachers who coordinated the event, but there were also student leaders who helped to organize the event. Leader junior Rittu Nella felt that one of the perks of the dinner was the contribution of gifts.

“Everyone got a chance to choose a gift, [and]  those gifts were sponsored by the Nurse’s Office,” Nella said. “Then [English teacher Mina] Moon made a slideshow of students saying what they are thankful for.”

Senior Justin Roh, attendee for three years, said that he also felt that the presents were one of the best parts of the feast in addition to the variety of food.

English teacher Cheryl Hope served food to the students and said she really enjoyed seeing their reactions.

“There are years when I have been truly touched by the reactions of the students to the whole thing,” Hope said. “These students are very dear.”

Cuadros was left with a lasting impression and expressed her gratitude to the staff and students who made the feast possible.

“I’d like to say thanks to GBS for the wonderful opportunity and to all the ELL teachers for being so sympathetic and fun with us,” Cuadros said. “And of course for the Thanksgiving meal; it was an unforgettable experience.”