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Be the Change club shares culture, food at Concord High School’s International Night

  • (From left) Eighth-grader Trezo Ndutiye and Concord High School freshmen Clinton Mungeta and David Tumaini rehearse backstage for their performance during International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014.  Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and then the students put on a performance in the auditorium.    <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    (From left) Eighth-grader Trezo Ndutiye and Concord High School freshmen Clinton Mungeta and David Tumaini rehearse backstage for their performance during International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014. Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and then the students put on a performance in the auditorium.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Soma Bhandari puts a stamp on the Nepal and Bhutan page of a vistor's "passport" during International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014.  Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and collected stamps for each type of food they tried.  Later the students put on a performance in the auditorium.    <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Soma Bhandari puts a stamp on the Nepal and Bhutan page of a vistor's "passport" during International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014. Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and collected stamps for each type of food they tried. Later the students put on a performance in the auditorium.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Photos from Serbia decorate a table during International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014.  Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and then the students put on a performance in the auditorium.    <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Photos from Serbia decorate a table during International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014. Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and then the students put on a performance in the auditorium.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Concord High junior Valerie Niyo (center) helps junior Amelia Moodie (left) with her costume backstage before their performance at International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014.  Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and then the students put on a performance in the auditorium.    <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Concord High junior Valerie Niyo (center) helps junior Amelia Moodie (left) with her costume backstage before their performance at International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014. Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and then the students put on a performance in the auditorium.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Concord High freshman Halima Noor (center) adjusts her outfit backstage before performing at International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014.  Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and then the students put on a performance in the auditorium.    <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Concord High freshman Halima Noor (center) adjusts her outfit backstage before performing at International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014. Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and then the students put on a performance in the auditorium.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • (From left) Eighth-grader Trezo Ndutiye and Concord High School freshmen Clinton Mungeta and David Tumaini rehearse backstage for their performance during International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014.  Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and then the students put on a performance in the auditorium.    <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Soma Bhandari puts a stamp on the Nepal and Bhutan page of a vistor's "passport" during International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014.  Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and collected stamps for each type of food they tried.  Later the students put on a performance in the auditorium.    <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Photos from Serbia decorate a table during International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014.  Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and then the students put on a performance in the auditorium.    <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High junior Valerie Niyo (center) helps junior Amelia Moodie (left) with her costume backstage before their performance at International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014.  Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and then the students put on a performance in the auditorium.    <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High freshman Halima Noor (center) adjusts her outfit backstage before performing at International Night sponsored by the Be the Change Club at Concord High School on Friday, May 30, 2014.  Visitors tasted foods from more than 20 countries and then the students put on a performance in the auditorium.    <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

Leticia Brascher moved from Brazil to Concord six months ago. And her homemade Brazilian bite-sized desserts were flying off her table yesterday at International Night held at Concord High School.

“I made these,” said the freshman, 14, pointing to a nearly empty tray of sweets. “And my grandmother helped with the chicken-and-cheese dish and also the broccoli tomato one.”

A few feet down the hall, Kevin Wu and Brady Truong handed out dumplings and small containers of lychee gelatin at a Chinese food table.

“We want to break the stereotype of Asian food,” Truong, 16, said. “There’s a difference between American Chinese food and Asian Chinese food, and we want people to know that.”

The hallway was filled with the smells of homemade food from 22 countries as students

in the Be the Change club at Concord High shared their culture and music. Anna-Marie DiPasquale, a social worker who advises the club, said about 10 percent of the student body is “New American,” the term the club uses for refugee and immigrant students. Concord is a refugee resettlement site, and she said the International Night gave these students a chance “to be experts in their own experience.”

“I think it’s a nice opportunity for the New American students, because when they arrive, they’re learning American culture, they’re learning the language, they’re learning to fit in. And plus, it’s all in a high school environment,” DiPasquale said. “So this is an opportunity for them to say, ‘This is my culture, this is my food, this is my cultural dress, this is my traditional dance.’ They can be the experts and share their expertise with everybody else.”

Club members are a mix of American and New American students, and the night’s theme was “Travel Around the World Without Leaving Concord High School.” Students brought food, flags and artifacts to a wide second-floor hallway, and more than 100 visitors collected stamps for their mini-passports as they moved from table to table. A lineup of 13 student performers ranging from Nepali dancers to the high school band put on a show in the auditorium afterward.

Senior Reshika Subbakaran, 18, has served as the club’s vice president for the past two years. She said the night was intended to “showcase the diverse talent” at the school.

“You can talk a lot about the diversity in Concord, but we don’t always really see it in action. No one really knows what’s out there until we witness it, so that’s what we decided to do,” she said.

Subbakaran moved to New Hampshire from India when she was a year old, but before joining the Be the Change club, she said she had “never really opened my eyes to diversity.”

“Each person has such an amazing story to tell, and I was privileged enough to hear those stories through the club,” Subbakaran said.

Freshman Jacqueline Bengtson, 14, joined the club to connect with classmates who came from different cultural backgrounds than her own, and she ran the auditorium’s sound system during the performances.

“My favorite part is really being able to meet so many people throughout the world and be able to say I have friends from 12 different countries,” she said. “And not just to be a friend, but to be really good friends and to hear their stories. It’s really special.”

DiPasquale said all club events were open to both American and New American students, and the club has blossomed since it was founded in 2011.

“It’s a way to get to know each other and to explore each other’s cultures . . . and make new friends that you wouldn’t otherwise see,” DiPasquale said. “It just makes the hallways a little bit friendlier.”

Bengston’s favorite food of the night was Brascher’s Brazilian desserts. “They were unbelievable,” she said.

“I hope to keep reaching out to the high school and to really have everyone understand the diversity and really appreciate it all,” she said. “I want to hear everyone’s story.”

(Ann Marie Jakubowski can be reached at 369-3302 or ajakubowski@cmonitor.com.)

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