International flags and ethnic dishes once more lined the walls of the Roosevelt School gymnasium in Weehawken with the return last Friday night of “Taste of Roosevelt,” Roosevelt’s annual heritage-embracing fundraiser. Money raised from the event goes to the PTO, which organizes class trips, dances, and activities throughout the year.
“It’s fun to see families from diverse places all in one place,” – Roosevelt student Katie Dewan.
The celebration of diversity draws large crowds from the school and community alike, and according to the event’s organizers, the Roosevelt School Parent-Teacher Organization, it almost impossibly seems to grow larger and larger each year.
This year, Roosevelt parents and other community participants again cooked up dishes according to their ethnic backgrounds, with 26 different countries represented.
Samantha Jaffoni, whose daughters Isabel and Amelia attend Roosevelt, prepared classic English fare –
scones and shortbread – while Diane Dagostino prepared Orecchiette with hot sauce and broccoli rabe representative of Italy.
In the spirit of diversity, Teresa and Maurizio Garcia prepared a French dish, Coq au vin, though neither claims French heritage.
Students, parents, and families packed the space in between, sitting at picnic-style tables to enjoy the assortment of ethnic offerings.
“It’s fun to see families from diverse places all in one place,” Roosevelt student Katie Dewan said.
PTO President Claudia Gutierrez was also happy with the turnout, stating, “It shows that [the students] are proud of their country and the culture.”
Cooking up succulent international fare wasn’t the only way for parents to get involved.
Ildefonso Acosta, father of Roosevelt sixth grader Jennifer, manned the door for a performance by magician Bruenell.
“There’s a little bit of everything here. It’s a fun night for the kids,” Acosta said of the magician and craft tables set up upstairs.
“Every year, we try to make it more and more enjoyable,” Orecchio said.
For the raffle, many parents solicited gift certificates from various restaurants and businesses in the surrounding area.
Mayor Richard Turner and the Town Council also pitched in, donating big ticket items like a laptop and an iPod touch.
Teachers and students also did their part, compiling theme baskets such as “sports” or “movie night” to be raffled off at the event.
“It was fun for everybody to participate,” Dewan said, with her sister Nadine and friend Maria Maldonado nodding in agreement.
Orecchio stressed the large-scale community involvement. “Everything in Weehawken is family,” he said. “We make new family members here.”
“The PTO really works hard. I give them all the credit,” Orecchio said.
The board is comprised of President Claudia Gutierrez, Vice Presidents Karen Hogan and Betty Loos, Treasurer Gabriela Mendez, and Secretary Donna Hochhauser.
“We have a great board,” Hochhauser said.
Gutierrez agreed, and stressed their gratitude to the parents, whom she called “fantastic.”
Deanna Cullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org