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Flags, cultures on parade

DeKALB – Learning about other countries was a matter of practicality for 10-year-old Asia McCaskel.

“If you take a vacation or whatever, you’ll know a little bit about them,” McCaskel said.

Her classmate, Benicio Bolden, was thinking along the same lines: “If you get married to someone [from another country], you know their culture and stuff.”

As students at Founders Elementary School, Asia and Benicio were two of the hundreds of fifth-graders from DeKalb School District 428 who marched in the Parade of Flags on Friday.

The flags were distributed randomly, and students could trade among themselves as they marched around the Convocation Center at Northern Illinois University.

Normally, the fifth-graders march from the east side of Huskie Stadium down Lucinda Avenue to the Martin Luther King Commons, but Friday’s rainy weather forced all of the activities associated with the Parade of Flags into the Convocation Center.

The goal of the event is to educate the students about the different countries of the world, and how all the world’s people play a part in this country, said District 428 Superintendent Jim Briscoe.

“Our country is made up of a lot of different nationalities, and it’s important to be proud of where you come from, and I think more importantly, it’s important for the kids to learn about countries and their beliefs,” Briscoe said.

For his part, Briscoe said he has limited international experience.

One of the football games he played for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater was located in Mexico City – a game designed to bolster the international experience of the players, Briscoe said.

As part of the event, international students at NIU speak to the children about the culture of their respective countries, said Wendi Rauli, the director of the ELS Language Center in DeKalb.

Rauli said ELS is contracted by NIU to help international students learn English because their skills are too poor to attend American schools.

Some of the international students dressed the part. Shari Al-Dawsari, an ELS student, taught students about his home country of Saudi Arabia while wearing a thobe – a white, long-sleeved, ankle-length garment – and a ghutra – a square red-and-white scarf worn over the head.

Jim Hoyos, a fifth-grader from Founders Elementary School, said he would like to learn more about Italy.

“I knew that pizza was from Italy,” Jim said.

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