TAMPA — If you live in Tampa, you don’t have to drive two hours to experience something similar to EPCOT.
Dickenson Elementary is hosting its own version of Disney’s globe-spanning attraction Dec. 19, thanks to its own multicultural festival. It will feature samples of food, dancing, and music from at least 17 countries.
According to Dickenson Principal Mary Cunningham, the school is unique because more than 70 percent of its student body is Hispanic.
Maybelly Pabon is coordinating the holiday event and said that there are plenty of events for everyone. A native of Colombia, she is looking forward to seeing how the different cultures blend. And since the majority of the Dickenson students use Spanish as their primary language, she said this is just another way to bring cultures together. Pabon was named Teacher of the Year at Dickenson last year and also won the Ida Baker Award for her work in the Tampa Bay community.
“Everybody gets together,” Pabon said. “They respect each other’s culture and we know we are all in everything together.”
Third-grader Jeremy Arce was born in Cuba but enjoys all other experiences. He has learned Colombian dances and looks forward to performing at the event.
“We don’t care what country anybody is from,” Jeremy said. “I speak Spanish at home but I know English at school. It isn’t that hard if you try.”
Rachel Paul was born in Trinidad. She said that she speaks English almost exclusively but appreciates being able to work with kids from other countries and wants to offer what ever she can to support Trinidad at the festival.
“I like meeting new people,” Rachel said. “It’s nice that we all aren’t the same. I don’t remember a lot about Trinidad, but that’s where I am from and I am proud of it.”
Isabella Choncen has lived in Cuba, but her real roots are in Peru. She’s looking forward to dancing the salsa at the festival and bringing a taste of Peru to the event. Her specialty is Chicken saltado, a mix of French fries, chicken, tomatoes and onions.
Rachel is also bringing a chicken dish, one with rice, plantains, and chicken; and Jeremy is bringing his favorite dish, Congri, a mix of meat, rice and beans.
While Dickenson might be a diverse school, one of their strengths is how united everyone is.
“It’s so nice to see how everyone relates to everyone else,” Cunningham said. “We do so many good things here and, even though the cultures are different, everyone gets along. It’s a great place.”
The Dickenson Elementary School Multicultural Festival will be held on Dec. 19 from 6-8 p.m. The school is located at 4720 Kelly Road.