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The City Journals

Twin Peaks’ culture night returns, students share their heritage

Jul 01, 2022 09:20AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Twin Peaks third-graders Ana Gomes Ferreira and Enzo Martins were telling their schoolmates and their families about the beautiful rainforests, what school life was like and the amazing food of their homeland of Brazil.

Their principal, Rebecca Spence, listened to them, then she sampled a Pão de Queijo or, a homemade cheese ball.

Their families also brought brigadeiros or condensed milk candy, bolo de fubá or cornmeal cake, bolos de arroz or rice cakes, and Paçoquinha de amendoim or peanut candy.

It was the return of Twin Peaks’ cultural night, an annual tradition that started in 2012 before being disrupted by the COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

Now, not only did families have displays with food and items from their countries, but many classes took part as well from Colette Madsen’s special education unit where they learned how to jugar, or play, with their homemade rattles to Jessica Hixson’s third-grade class that each created their own African masks which are worn during celebrations, such as holidays.

Spence said it gave all students the opportunity to engage in the night’s activities and apply what they were learning. For example, she said that fifth-grade teacher Naomi Lunt had her students read the book, “Esperanza Rising,” the story of a girl who migrates from Mexico to California. While Esperanza ends up working on a fruit farm and advocates for workers’ rights and better conditions, she gains maturity as she comforts her friend by making a yard doll. Lunt’s class then tied into what they were reading by making the simple, colorful yard dolls.

Several classes learned about different countries and showed their artwork.

Stephanie Proud’s kindergarten class shared their own stories. One boy said he moved here from Colombia, and others wrote their families came to Utah from Ukraine, Denmark, Mexico and Brazil, and a Kurdish village. Many kindergartners shared the languages they speak in their homes.

Spence said she can walk down the school’s halls and hear more than 10 different languages.

Of Twin Peaks’ 230 students, 56.6% are ethnic minorities, and 34% and rising are English language learners, she said.

The second highest demographic are 82 Hispanic students, 16 fewer students than Caucasian. There are 17 Pacific Islander students, 16 Asians and multi-race, American Indian and Black students complete the rest of the student body.

“We have such a diverse culture here and we want all kids to feel welcome and safe and part of the school,” she said, mentioning that recently some students were fasting during Ramadan and that gave them a chance to share about their culture and for others, the opportunity to learn and celebrate “how cool it is.”

Ana and Enzo were excited to share with the festival-goers about their heritage.

“In Brazil, Carnival would fill the streets with people and all kinds of fun,” Ana said. “We all would have a really big feast at lunchtime.”

Enzo added: “There was all sorts of food that was wonderful. We make a lot of it here. Brazil is very beautiful and windy, but our goal now is to have a good life and school here. I’ve made some good friends.”

Spence said that is part of the goal with cultural night.

“Cultural night has been very ingrained in the culture of the school and the teachers who have been here wanted to bring it back so we can share with one another,” she said. “This is just an opportunity for us to remember how lucky we are that we have people from all cultures that we get to learn from.”