‘I felt that I’m not alone’: Concord students celebrate diversity at International Night

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Jasmine Moore (left) and Suvana Rai walk down the corridor at Concord High School on at the “Be the Change” Club’s International Night. Photo/Geoff Forester, Concord Monitor

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CONCORD, NH – Concord High School junior Nour Elhawawi, her older sister Germeen and their mother Nevien Elhefnawy were busy behind their table at Concord High’s International Night Friday, greeting people and handing out platefuls of Egyptian koshari, a dish of rice, beans and pasta topped with tomato salsa and fried onions.

Nour Elhawawi, who moved to the U.S. with her family from Egypt in 2015, was wearing a traditional galabeya dress with a shawl and headscarf lined with sequins in preparation for the student cultural fashion show that would take place later that evening.

Elhawawi said joining Concord High School’s Be the Change Club, which hosted the school’s annual International Night Friday, changed her life when she attended the first meeting of the school year as a shy introvert and immediately felt welcomed.

“I felt that I’m not alone,” Elhawawi said. “I felt like there are other people facing the same struggles that I face, whether it’s language or religion or if someone faces any kind of discrimination in their life, I’m not alone and I’m included in this club.”

At International Night, tables were set up along the school’s second-floor hallway known as “Main Street,” where attendees could sample food from different countries. There were momos and samosas from Nepal, sausage rolls and scones from England, African donuts from Congo and gallo pinto from Nicaragua.

Concord assistant principal Tim Herbert takes a photo of one of the tables at the “Be the Change Club” International Night 2022 at Concord High School. Photo/Geoff Forester, Concord Monitor

Concord High junior Marie Grace Turabumukiza sat at a nearby table, handing out plates of plantains with tomatoes and vegetables, paired with yellow rice seasoned with tumeric, traditional Burundi foods that her parents had made for the evening. Turabumukiza’s family is Burundian, and they regularly eat Burundi cuisine at home.

For Turabumukiza, a member of Be the Change Club, it was her first time hosting a table at International Night, although she has attended the event in past years. She said her favorite part of the evening is always the food, and “going around and learning about everyone else’s culture,” Turabumukiza said.

The evening reflected the ever-increasing diversity at Concord High School, where 20 percent of students are non-white compared to 10 percent a decade ago, according to NH Department of Education data.

Anna-Marie DiPasquale, left, and Concord assistant principal Tim Herbert at the “Be the Change Club” International Night event May 27, 2022. DiPasquale, the school’s ELL School Social Worker, is leaving after graduation this year. Photo/Geoff Forester, Concord Monitor

Concord High School junior Gursimran Kaur and her older sister Jasmeen, who attends NHTI, performed an energetic bhangra dance in the high school auditorium, to loud cheers from fellow students. Their family moved to Concord from Punjab in India in 2019, where Kaur said they learned to do bhangra dancing in school and from watching videos and movies.

“It’s just fun,” Kaur said.

The rest of the evening included a fashion show, where students modeled traditional clothing from countries like Nepal, Rwanda, Pakistan, Vietnam and others, and students performed songs and dances for an enthusiastic crowd in the school auditorium.

Sereva Cela, who arrived from Albania just four months ago, holds up the henna drawings are hand at the “Be the Change Club” International Night 2022. Photo/Geoff Forester, Concord Monitor

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