Helping to celebrate diversity

HOUGHTON?- A couple of years ago, Thy Yang, director of international programs and services at Michigan Technological University, suggested getting students from local schools to design posters to be hung in Dee Stadium for the Parade of Nations.

Her motivation behind the project was to reach out to children and their families and encourage them to participate in the Parade of Nations festivities.

Starting in 2011, two schools are chosen each year to design the posters. The first year Houghton and Hancock students took on the task, then came South Range and Calumet. This year’s student artists are from Thomas R. Davis Elementary School in Dollar Bay and the Lake Linden-Hubbell Elementary School.

Thomas R. Davis Elementary School K-6 Art Teacher Marissa Kentala said she and her students were given free rein over what poster designs to create. Designs they ended up with include a flag quilt made up of the flags of various nations and a collection of handprints from students.

Kentala said the students have been having a lot of fun with project.

“They’re really enjoying it,” she said.

Lake Linden-Hubbell Elementary School Art and Computer Teacher Danielle Alfafara and her students created posters with images like a Japanese kimono and a globe made with painted masks.

When Alfafara was first contacted to participate in the poster project, she said she was very excited.

“I like to do things in the community and have my students’ work out there,” she said. “I think they’re super talented.”

Alfafara said it was also good to have students do something in the classroom that was cross-curricular.

“They’re not just doing an art project,” she said. “They’re also learning about the countries.”

Reactions from the students have been positive.

“As we were going along, they were all appreciating what we were doing more,” she said. “I was giving them countries they may not have heard of before so it became this teaching moment.”

Seventh grade student Karli Destrampe said she learned how to draw a Mexican flag with the coat of arms (eagle) in the middle.

“It was hard to draw and paint it exactly,” she said.

Destrampe is also excited to have a lot of people see her artwork.

According to Maryann Wilcox, coordinator of registered student organizations at Michigan Tech and a Parade of Nations committee member, when the poster program started, it immediately took off.

“It was extremely successful,” she said.

Even though it caught on in its inaugural year, there was some question if the program would be a success. But according to Wilcox, everybody loved the posters that first year.

“They were just so touching,” she said.

“And we really did see the students bring their families to come and see their posters hung in Dee Stadium. That’s when we knew the project would be happening every year.”

There is no direction given to the schools about what the posters should look like, which Wilcox said is to not limit the imagination of the students.

“We’ve had wall size posters,” she said. ” Whatever the students come up with.”

The amount of posters each school creates is also not set in stone.

The posters will only be up in Dee Stadium for today’s activities.

The Multicultural Festival follows the parade and runs from noon to 3 p.m., with international music, food and items for purchase.

The poster project is sponsored by Enrollment Services and Student Life at Michigan Tech.