By Margie M. Palmer
The second annual multicultural night at the Charley Brown Children’s Center (CBCC), took place on Friday, Jan. 26, said CBCC Director Liz Cortese, and for the second year in a row, it was an overwhelming success.
For those who are unfamiliar with CBCC, the center, located at 5921 Jackson Drive in La Mesa was built in 1972 as part of a community outreach program of The Table: United Church of Christ in La Mesa. Its mission is to provide affordable, quality child care for infants, toddlers and preschoolers to community members.
This year, it’s estimated that between 200 and 250 CBCC students, parents and family members participated in the Friday night event, which aimed to promote a greater awareness and appreciation for the different cultures represented at the center.
“We started the multicultural night last year after a parent brought the idea to us and our administrative supervisor, Stephanie Marroquin, went with it,” Cortese said. “We wanted to include the different ethnicities we have in the school and show different cultures, and counties throughout the world.”
Marroquin said she felt it was important to enhance students’ appreciation of other cultures because the school is a melting pot.
“We have 112 students between the ages of 6 weeks and 5 years enrolled at CBCC and we get students from all over,” she said. “We have some that don’t speak English. We have some that are from China, Japan, Iraq, Iran and we have a couple that are from Africa. We have a lot of different cultures here and we want to make sure the kids are inclusive and that they realize that differences are beautiful. We felt it’s good to start to teach them about accepting differences while they are young because we hope it will have a great impact on them when they are older.”
In preparation for the event, a letter was sent to parents asking parents to prepare a hot or cold dish representing their family’s heritage.
In the classroom, teachers formulated lesson plans that focused on a country of their choosing, and the students created art projects and display boards that featured what they learned.
Marroquin said the art was then sold, and that the money that was raised was donated to Nothing But Nets, a nonprofit organization which delivers bed nets to children who live in malaria-stricken areas.
The money raised as part of this year’s multicultural night will allow the organization to purchase 22 nets.
“We are a very close-knit center and we have so many amazing staff members and parents, it blows my mind,” Marroquin said. “Last year, our first year, we received way more than we anticipated in terms of food and parent involvement. We had two parents who bonded up and rolled lumpia together for a couple of hours and we hope the more that we do it, and the more we get the word out, that more parents will want to be involved.”
Marroquin said the feedback from the families who participated in this year’s multicultural night was extremely positive.
“People were really impressed with the food and with a lot of kids being picky, it was great to see them try different foods from around the world,” she said. “We had lentils from Africa and we had one parent who said he hadn’t seen a certain type of seasoning since he was deployed in Iraq. It was a great way for parents to meet up and talk, for kids to try food and to broaden the horizons of the children.”
For more information on the CBCC, including its programs, curriculum and enrollment requirements, visit charleybrownchildrenscenter.org or call 619-463-5126.
— Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of publications for over a decade. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.