CommUNITY celebrated at Marshalltown library

Mission: Community building

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY Food and traditional dress, melded by helpful answers to questions made the India table a major attraction at Monday night’s Celebrate CommUNITY event at the Marshalltown Public Library. Marshalltown High School students who played a major role in coordinating the initiative said they will do a similar event next year.

Marshalltown Public Library meeting rooms resembled a mini-United Nations this week as cultures from Latin America to Southeast Asia to the United States were on display via foods, music, traditional dress and information.

It was part of the Celebrate CommUNITY potluck, educational, and community-building event organized by a group of Marshalltown High School students with assistance from the MHS Speech Department, Marshalltown Public Library, Immigrant Allies, and ethnic advocacy groups Al Éxito (Latino) and EMBARC (Myanmar, formerly Burma).

MHS sophomore Abril Alcaraz and a colleague gave attendees a “passport” as they entered the large room and all had the opportunity to travel to destinations of their choosing.

Aromas from authentic foods filled the air, attention-getting colorful native dress abounded, and of interest were educational materials indigenous to each country where a traveler could learn about a nation’s flag, foods, government and leadership.

Books about civil- and humans rights leaders Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and Rigoberta Menchú were displayed too.

Stationed behind tables were representatives or “ambassadors” of countries ranging from Colombia to England to India.

Some were native to the country, others had an interest.

One MHS student, a Latina, selected Italy to promote.

“I picked Italy because it interested me from history class,” she said. “I thought I should go with a country I knew something about, and it would be a great opportunity to tell visitors what I knew … perhaps I can visit it someday.”

MHS Speech Coach Jocelyn Frohwein said students were eager to help attendees learn about the many cultures and countries represented.

“The students did all the work learning about the many countries ,” said Frohwein. “Their mission is promote community unity.”

Alcaraz was all smiles as she looked about as attendees stopped at tables, asked questions, and sampled food.

“Next year will be even better,” said Alcaraz. “Tonight is a try-out, and so far it has been great … I just love this.”