ESL students from Westerville North High School danced for the crowd.
For the first time ever, four organizations supporting Westerville City Schools collaborated on an experience to enhance and enrich student experiences and learning. In partnership with the Community Culture Celebration, the Westerville Education Foundation, Westerville Parent Council, Westerville Education Challenge and Westerville Partners for Education brought the Columbus Crossing Borders Project to Westerville, and to our schools. The goal was to create awareness, understanding, appreciation and connection around the diversity in Westerville City Schools and the community.
Westerville Crossing Borders was inspired, in large part, by a video from English Language Learners at Westerville Central High School. These students formed a group called Central Voices and as an initial project, produced a documentary sharing their experiences as immigrants and refugees.
The focal point of the Westerville Crossing Borders effort this year is the Columbus Crossing Borders Project, which includes a 50-minute documentary and the works of 34 artists responding to stories shared by refugees in our community. Westerville Crossing Borders brought the documentary and art exhibit to Westerville’s 6th annual Community Culture Day, which was held on Sunday, September 30, at The Point at Otterbein University.
“We couldn’t be more excited about this,” said Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer, coordinator of Community Culture Day. “Our city and, in particular, our schools, have a wealth of diversity. The Columbus Crossing Borders Project shares personal stories and images that inspire us to step outside of our comfort zones and connect with one another.”
Westerville is one of the most diverse school districts in Central Ohio, with 55 native languages spoken by students and 63 different countries represented in its classrooms.
In addition to the September 30 event, the art exhibit remained at The Point for several days to allow Westerville City schools district staff and students to view the exhibit and engage in discussions and projects relating to its themes.
The Community Culture Weekend started in May 2012 as a one-day celebration. It has expanded into a weekend of events including Hands Across Westerville on the last Uptown 4th Friday and the Community Culture Celebration on the following Sunday. This celebration of our multicultural community now includes panel discussions, a cultural fashion show, ethnic food trucks, dance groups, exhibits by Westerville City Schools and their students, games, and crafts.