The Conway Junior High School invited community members to its annual Multicultural Festival on Saturday.
The event, which brought in more than 600 people last year, featured dozens of different places from around the world and the cultures found there set up at booths for participants to come, view and talk about with creators.
“This event is really for our students,” CJHS teacher and woman behind the project, Martha Hibbard, said. “Junior high is such a hard age, we want students to be proud of the cultural heritage they have and not try to hide it or ignore it to fit in.”
Culture, she said, is especially important and significant for language teachers.
“Culture is more than just the language you speak,” Hibbard said. “It is wrapped up in food, traditions, celebrations, family and in every day life.”
While the school has done the festival for the past seven years, she said this is the first year the event was held on a Saturday.
Hibbard said there is list of benefits the event brings to the community.
“This event promotes school spirit, close interactions between students and staff, as well as students to the community,” she said.
Hibbard said they even had people from the University of Central Arkansas, Hendrix College and other community representatives come.
“They bring their international students and we have the best cultural exchanges,” she said. “The kids learn so much from them.”
UCA student Atheer Alrajeh and her cousin, Noura Alrajeh, a student at Conway High School, prepared a booth from their home county, Saudi Arabia.
Both girls were wearing traditional outfits to represent their homeland and to try to get people to ask them questions about their heritage.
“We like to represent Saudi Arabia and want people to know more about it,” Atheer said.
The college student said she thinks it’s important to share more about her country and everything it has to offer. Atheer said Saturday she was able to do that and had many people coming up and asking her questions.
She said her homeland’s culture has a rich culture and one that truly cares about religion and each other deeply.
“Saudi Arabian people care about families and relationships,” Atheer said.
The event, she said, allowed them to express those loves about their country.
“We actually love to show up and answer people’s questions and learn about other people’s cultures,” Atheer said.
People who attended the event got to sample food from around the world, view a talent show and taste food from food trucks present.
Hibbard said the event had passports that were filled out with stamps and information as well as a scavenger hunt that helped attendees learn interesting facts about each country.
For the past few months of planning and preparing the event, she said teachers have been working with students to get their booths ready.
“We have been watching students learn songs, dances [and more],” Hibbard said.
She said they even had the agriculture students learn about goats in other countries because they would have the animals present during the event and had other ones researching games and famous people, everyone banding together and going all out for the day.
“English gets us stereotype poems … art helps us make our signs,” Hibbard said. “This truly is a lot of students coming together for a unique cause to celebrate the differences of others.”