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Inaugural CCPS Culture Expo uses music, conversations to celebrate diversity

Carroll County Public Schools holds its 2017 Culture Expo at Winters Mill High School in Westminster Thursday, August 17, 2017.

The sound of drums, tambourines and voices flooded the auditorium of Winters Mill High School.

Onstage, a group of musicians, singers and dancers moved and swayed as those in the audience kept time with their clapping.

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The Nazu African Dance and Drum Company stood in bright, colorful garb. The group worked to teach the more than 300 people in attendance call-and-response songs, having spectators jump in singing the words.

Eventually, the group brought those in the audience onstage — first all of the men, then all of the women. Carroll County Public Schools teachers, administrators, Board of Education members and even Superintendent Stephen Guthrie jumped, swayed and danced as a part of the performance.

The hourlong performance was the first during a six-hour Culture Expo, the first of the sort for CCPS.

Guthrie spoke at the start of Thursday's event, reminding those in attendance of the importance of unity and not being divisive.

"Education is our trade," Guthrie said. "But the future of our children is our business."

It's important to prepare students for a world outside of Carroll County, he said, because they won't always be in Carroll or CCPS. And, Guthrie said, they can't expect students to be successful if they have ideas of hate and separation.

"The way is forward, not backward," he added.

From left, Lexi Uhrin of The Arc of Carroll County, Brendan Lindsay, 2, and his mother Ashley, a counselor at Westminster High School, get acquainted with Panda, a baby sheep belonging to Lydia Chamelin, 11, not pictured, at the Culture Expo on Thursday, August 17, 2017.
From left, Lexi Uhrin of The Arc of Carroll County, Brendan Lindsay, 2, and his mother Ashley, a counselor at Westminster High School, get acquainted with Panda, a baby sheep belonging to Lydia Chamelin, 11, not pictured, at the Culture Expo on Thursday, August 17, 2017. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

CCPS Supervisor of Equity and Community Outreach Judy Jones said the event, which they hope will become annual, is a way to kick off the school year and put diversity at the forefront. Celebrating cultures and diversity is important to Carroll County Public Schools, Jones said.

With the more than 300 people in attendance Thursday, she said the event was better than she'd hoped for.

"I'm overwhelmed," Jones said. "This is better than my wildest dreams."

She added, "With everything that's going on, it's well-timed."

In addition to the African dance and drum performance, the day was made up of lectures, other cultural performances, exhibitor booths and more. The lectures ranged from topics like creating minority support groups, the importance of LGBTQ+ books, cultural diversity in the Islamic World, sustainable agriculture, working with students in poverty, working with students with autism, and understanding trauma.

The expo also included a Caribbean steel drums performance and a Chinese lion dance.

Food trucks with a multitude of different food options, like gyros or brisket, made an appearance around lunch time.

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Connie Peltzer and Jen Clouser, two teachers in the Westminster High School Behavioral Educational Support Team Program, came out Thursday to attend the event.

Clouser said she wanted to see what CCPS is working to do to improve diversity in the school system. She also said it was good to see all of the different organizations and support groups that offer resources to students.

"I think it's wonderful," she said of the day's events. "I think it's great that they're doing this."

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