First Thanksgiving Dinner Came Early for Newly Arrived Students

Nearly 100 high school students, most newly arrived in this country, recently celebrated their first traditional Thanksgiving meal as part of the District’s Port of Entry program.

Teacher awaiting to serve thanksgiving feast

 The 11th annual Port of Entry Thanksgiving dinner featured a truly American meal: turkey with gravy and stuffing, sweet potatoes, green beans, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin and apple pies for dessert.  To ensure there was a reminder of their homes and to show them how easy it can be to integrate different cultures, rice and beans was also on the menu.

Along with the hearty meal, a presentation on the history of Thanksgiving was served up by volunteers from the School-Based Youth Services Program and the Bilingual Education Program, and presentations were also made by students.

Many volunteers ready to serve food for the festive event

“Our Port of Entry program is a comprehensive approach to help integrate newly arrived students not only into the District, but also to expose them to as much American history and culture as possible,” says Nivia Rojas, Director of the School-Based Youth Services Program.

students being served a thanksgiving meal

The annual holiday dinner began at the former Emerson High School and continued with the opening of the new high school nine years ago, says Director of Bilingual Education Chris Abbato.

“Most of these students not only face language barriers, but they may also face cultural barriers in their new home and that’s why we have made this dinner a staple of our cultural immersion efforts,” says Mr. Abbato.  “Learning a new language is very important, of course, but so is gaining an understanding of the new culture that will be a part of their lives for many years to come,” he adds.

Ms. Rojas and Mr. Abbato wish to thank the following staff members who donated their time and efforts to make this dinner possible: Union City High School Principal Ryan Lewis, Mirta Serret, Tom Tuckler, Sharon Bele Pena, Edith Aquije, Lynn Pressley, Elizabeth Toledo, Cheryl Pakos, Kristine Nazzal, Laura Maczuzak, Debra Paronzini and Pari Fardi.