Guests from the community and students from the Jacksonville State University International House representing more than 20 different countries gathered for a presentation that included multi-cultural dancing, video presentations and speeches from Calhoun County residents born in other countries.
“This is something we do that gives our students an opportunity to see other cultural norms,” said Assistant Principal Charles D. Gregory. “They see the variety of cultures we have right here in Anniston that’s so different from their own.”
Spanish teacher Miriam Shelton began the event four years ago on a suggestion from students in her Spanish club.
“It was really the students’ idea,” said Shelton, who has organized a multi-cultural board at the school to help select guests for the event. “And the students love it. They always ask, ‘Mrs. Shelton, when are we going to have culture day?’”
The event initially focused on Spanish speaking cultures in South and Central America, but this year expanded to a world event. Shelton said the change was made to accommodate the changing cultural landscape in Calhoun County. Guest speakers this year included residents from Japan and China, as well as places such as Ecuador, Panama and Puerto Rico.
A big help in bringing in other cultures was the JSU International House. Students from the program joined the celebration Friday by demonstrating different dance styles and singing songs from Spain, Russia and various African countries.
“I think we see people and recognize superficial traits and think we understand them sometimes,” said John Ketterer, director of the International House. “We need to work past that, and that’s why we come to events like these.”
Shelton said the biggest impact culture day has for Anniston students is the inspiration of seeing a culture outside of their own.
“It’s important because a lot of these students haven’t experienced anything outside of Anniston,” Shelton said. “They see people from different cultures who came here and they get inspired. They think ‘I don’t have to stay at home.’”
One student inspired to see the world was Anniston High School sophomore Adaisa Montgomery, who serves as secretary for the Spanish club. Montgomery said it is her dream after graduating to join the military and become a nurse.
“I want to see different parts of the world,” Montgomery said. “So it’s really important to know about these other cultures and speak other languages.”
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.