Ryan Gao is proud of his Chinese heritage, but his dad owns a Japanese restaurant so he brought sushi to the Ventnor Middle School Multicultural Fair, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019.

VENTNOR – Students at the Ventnor Middle School celebrated the diversity that is Ventnor during its annual Multicultural Fair, Tuesday, Nov. 26.

According to eighth grade history teacher Debbie Duff, 62 students participated in the fair on a voluntary basis representing 20 different countries.

“The students participated after school on their own,” Duff said.

Teachers Debbie Duff and Lori Henry organized this year’s Multicultural Fair.

Although some teachers provided extra credit for students who participated, others did not. But that didn’t stop the students from picking a country, researching its culture and presenting its food and culture. Some even wore native costumes from their chosen countries.

“Some of the younger students start out doing their own heritage, but as they progress through the grades, they chose other countries to investigate,” said Duff, who coordinated the fair with seventh grade special education teacher Lori Henry. “The students are interested in foreign countries and enjoy cooking different foods. They really have fun with it.”

Parents were invited to peruse the aisles of displays and some were helpful in cooking the foods and sharing cultural artifacts from their native countries.

Ryan Gao’s heritage is Chinese, but his dad own Yama Japanese restaurant in Ventnor, so he brought a tray of sushi.

Seventh grader Carly Hennis and her partner Alexa Letrenta chose a country they knew very little about – Barbados.

“We learned it is a county in the Eastern Carribbean, so we made sugar cookies with coconut,” Carly said.

Madison Siglin, Mia Merlino and Arden Hazlett chose France because Madison’s grandmother’s dream is to someday visit France. They worked to put out a spread of French pastries, including eclairs, croissants and macarons.

Jennifer Rivera joined Valentina Olarte to discover her own heritage – Puerto Rico. She fried up some plantains, and Valentina made rice and beans.

Luis Ramirez’s grandmother Manuela Aguilar, who hails from Mexico, got up early Tuesday morning to cook up some sopas for her grandson and his partner Makayla Cappuccio to serve. Their colorful display included Mexican pottery. But their specialty was hibiscus tea, which has been used as a healing tea for hundreds of years. The tea helps lower cholesterol and controls diabetes, his father said.

Mia Rose Marota and her partners Cassie Parsons and Kendra Levine were sparked to learn about Spain after Mia Rose’s aunt visited the country. Kendra’s mom made some “really good” empanadas to share with spectators.

And, did you know that Gummy Bears are German? Well, two groups of students used the squishy sweet treats to showcase Germany. Natalie Fink said she is part German and her grandmother visited the country two years ago during Octoberfest. Partners Corina Scattergood and Tanhah Nishuti also served Bavarian pretzels at their table.

Ipshita Arifin, a Bengali, and her partner Merrin McGeown, presented Bangladesh, offering spectators some of Ipshita’s homemade chicken samosas.

Perhaps the biggest stretch was for eighth grader Anna Jacobson, whose project focused on Romania.

“I wanted to pick a country outside my comfort zone,” she said. “I really liked learning about Romania.”

Her display included a bowl of fake fangs, a la Bram Stoker’s Dracula.


Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.