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Cultural Luncheons Connect Students with Countries, Cultures

Wealthy Elementary School students took a virtual trip to a land of kings and queens, haunted castles and legends, complete with treats and a look at the mystical country’s flag and history.

The 36 fourth- and fifth-grade students studied Croatia during the school’s recent cultural luncheon, learning details of the small European country made up of 1,246 islands.Student Eli Robinson tries a Croatian treat

“Every island has a story of how it started,” said Zarisa Gummere, who came to the United States from Croatia as a college student in 1994. Gummere’s daughter, Audrey, is in third grade at Wealthy Elementary.

The monthly luncheons, an idea of the school’s Cultural Ambassadors parent committee, introduce students to countries native to families in the school. Students have explored Mexico, Germany, India, China, Japan, Sweden, Lebanon, Israel and England. The next luncheon will focus on Brazil.

Audrey Gummere's mother Zarissa Gummere is one of several students' family members who've spoken on their native countriesClose Connections

The goal is to develop knowledge and encourage appreciation of different cultures and countries. Principal Anthony Morey said the parent committee recognized the benefits of learning about ethnicities represented at the school and developing an understanding of the world.

“Over the course of fourth and fifth grades, all students will have attended six or seven luncheons,” said Morey. “Long-term, the goal is to make sure all our classrooms and students are globally connected.”

Gummere wrote children’s names for table seats in the Cyrillic alphabet, and Audrey passed out Croatian chocolates and candy. Gummere told students of Croatian natives like legendary explorer Marco Polo and engineer Nickola Tesla, traditional foods, currency and the haunted island of Lokrum, where because of a long-standing curse nobody dares sleep there even today. “My Audrey still doesn’t want to step on that island,” Gummere said.Students learn about Croatian history and customs

Croatia is now a major tourist destination, welcoming 11 million visitors last July and August. The island Dubrovnik is considered the pearl of the Adriatic Sea.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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