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Little Neck, Doug schools celebrate diversity

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A pair of northeast Queens schools went international last week — and they did it in a delicious way.

PS 94 in Little Neck and PS 98 in Douglaston held events highlighting the ethnic diversity of each school’s students and staff, and while music, dance and costumes were all a part of the fun, the best part was the food.

For more than 15 years students, staff and parents at PS 94 have held an International Food Festival day to celebrate ethnic diversity. On Friday the school halls were filled with tables of homemade rice pudding, tiramisu, Irish soda bread, Chalah, chow mein, California rolls and fried wontons.

This year’s event also drew a few special visitors, including Queens Board of Education representative Terri Thomson, City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and School District 26 Superintendent Claire McIntee, a former principal of PS 94.

As Thomson and Avella chowed down on plates brimming with food, McIntee praised the work of her successor, Principal JoAnn Barbeosch.

“It really is a gem,” McIntee said, praising Barbeosch for maintaining the school’s high standards.

In a lot of ways, PS 98’s cafeteria was a mirror image of PS 94 Friday, with dozens of parents manning tables of homemade food, including everything from empanadas and beef patties to chicken fritters, baked apples, chicken and broccoli, California rolls and borek, a small pastry filled with rice and beef.

However, at PS 98 Friday’s feast was the culmination of a week’s worth of international events.

Parent Diane El-Sawaf said the school’s International Week included folk tales, performances by an Argentinean dance group, flamenco dancing, short films, and a mini-museum filled with artifacts, costumes and musical instruments from different cultures.

“We can’t even include it all in a week,” El-Sawaf said as children in brightly colored costumes carried plates of food throughout the cafeteria. “It’s a whole week with a lot of facets to it.”

Principal Sheila Huggins, who said PS 98 has been holding its International Week for 15 years, said the event is a way to overcome intolerance.

“As we appreciate our differences, we begin to see the common threads of tradition and family values,” she said. “The parents do the bulk of the work.”

It is an effort the schools students seemed to appreciate.

“International Week is a time to learn about other cultures,” said Stephen, 9.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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