A windy Mother Nature may have had other plans for the revved up students at Laurel High School who’d prepared to strut their cultures in “One World; Many Views” on March 2, but the extra week of rehearsals certainly didn’t hurt their performances — which went on Friday evening — nor their passion.
The theme for the school’s annual International Night — dedicated in the program to “dreamers and free thinkers” — was chosen through school-wide nominations and voting, according to event organizer and English teacher Kathleen Murphy.
Auditions in January, she said, determined which students would perform a medley of music, poetry, song and dance.
This year’s school demographics drew singers, musicians and dancers from the African, Hispanic and Caribbean student associations as well as visiting singer Carlo Robles (a 10th-grader from the Philippines), dancer Jennifer Randolph (a Laurel High School alumnus from Ghana) and the Ansah-Brew Family Band (Performing Arts Center for African Cultures).
In the auditorium lobby, attended to by National Honor Society ushers, an impressive International Health Exhibit created by the nursing program was presented on posters that wrapped along the walls and entrance doors.
Staff member Jimmy Jackson’s U.S. Air Force ROTC waited patiently to make their entrance from the lobby; the evening’s preludes kicked off with a U.S. Color Guard and International Flags ceremony representing 48 countries — Cadet Kevin Guruswamy, from India, said the evening was a once-in-a-lifetime experience — followed by ninth-grader Urabena Aggrey’s outstanding performance of the National Anthem.
Principal Dwayne Jones, garbed in ethnic African dress, welcomed all to the event, and Laurel City Mayor Craig Moe (a 1977 Laurel High School graduate) spoke briefly, encouraging students to stay involved in school activities and to “always strive for solutions.”
“We [Laurel] are a very diverse community that gets along,” he said.
Next up were the delightful dance routines “Bachata, Punta and Merengue” performed by 12 members of the Spanish Honor Society. Then school senior Sharon Alot danced solo while soulfully reciting David Diop’s “Africa, My Africa” with accompaniment by Adwoa Ansah-Brew on drums.
The African Student Association followed with their lively dance routines just before Ghanaian master drummer Ansah-Brew — who led the still seated audience in a Swahili routine — and dancer Randolph wowed the audience.
Twelfth-grader singer Rosa Obuh, from Spain, started everyone swaying with her bilingual performance of Sam Smith’s “You Say I’m Crazy.”
The fun Fashion Fete that followed showcased about two dozen students in all sorts of ethic dress, creating a visual tapestry of youthful beauty.
Raiha Shah modeled Pakistani formal wear; her friend, Maryam Amjad, wore casual. Both girls said they really enjoyed participating.
After the fashion show, three Central American dancers from the Hispanic Student Association boldly claimed the stage to perform “Bachata, Merengue and Regaeton.”
Next, when EMC sang Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect,” the appreciative crowd dove in, waving their cell phone lights and singing along in tribute to the performance.
The Caribbean Student Association leapt dramatically into their dance routines in a haze of fog, followed by popular Nigerian rapper Folayemi Babarinde.
And to cap an exciting evening of upbeat music, colorful strobe lights, budding young talent and inspired performances, the Panlara Steel Band from the Caribbean performed.
Prior to the evening’s festivities, Jones wrote in an email, “We at Laurel High School are like a mini United Nations. Like them, we strive every day to show the world that people from different countries and backgrounds can truly get along … at Laurel High School, we encourage tolerance of different backgrounds and customs.”
Moe said different cultures and perspective is the Laurel community and that he appreciates how hard the students worked on International Night.
“I’m out of breath just watching them; it’s fantastic the stuff they do,” he said.
Murphy, who is Irish American, along with core International Committee members Heather Piccott-Bryan (Jamaica) and Miriam Duany (Cuba) coordinated the creative efforts of about 150 teacher volunteers, club sponsors, students, staff members and guest performers.
Korean drama director Jackline Kim and American stage director Frank Hammond, along with many others, also stood tall behind the scenes.
“It’s always fun to see students on stage when their best tends to come out,” Murphy said. “[International Night] went really smoothly and I think the performances were really high quality.”