Noah Molenda, 6, of Hobart, Ind., makes a holiday ornament with his grandfather Ed Molenda, of Crown Point, during the Holidays Around The World program held at John Wood Elementary School in Merrillville. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Ilce and Jovanco Mizimak, in first and third grade, respectively, listened recently as college-aged foreign students talked about their home countries, entranced by those who wore the traditional robes of their homeland.
The two young boys didn’t want to talk about the experience, but they, like many of their fellow students at John Wood Elementary School in Merrillville, eagerly posed with the older students while their parents snapped pictures.
The foreign students — who came from countries like Brazil, Taiwan, Uzbekistan and Romania — all attend Purdue University Calumet and all agreed to speak to the children as part of the elementary school’s third annual Holidays Around the World program.
Levi Ilyes, of Romania, came prepared with a presentation showing the traditional foods, location, size, and the people of Romania, along with some characters and places the young students might be familiar with, such as the most famous vampire, Count Dracula.
“But mostly the kids are curious about the words,” Ilyes said.
Stacey Pagan, a Parent-Teacher Organization member and one of the organizers of the event, said Holidays Around the World is a big night for the children and their parents.
“It’s a good family night,” Pagan said, pointing out that parents can help their children with various crafts, while there also are games, such as Bingo and pin the hat on Santa, raffles, food, and a visit with Santa.
She said proceeds from the raffles, crafts and printed photos with Santa went to the Curt Hoffman Scholarship fund, which is awarded to a graduating senior from Merrillville High School who attended John Wood. Proceeds from a guessing game went to Riley Hospital for Children. Money from concessions went to the school.
Kayla Kraus, 8, was blind-folded and turned around three times before she took her turn placing the hat on a Santa picture.
“I’m not good at games,” she said.
But she put the hat on the right spot, and like everyone who participated in the game, got to choose a prize.
Nearby, Carlie Munsie and LaDante Rice, both 5, made picture frames while Carlie’s dad and LaDante’s parents watched and they waited for Santa’s arrival. Their wish lists were already made out and sitting on the table, ready to show the man in red.
“I want Play-Doh, a snow globe, and I’ll tell Santa I’ll just fill in the rest later,” Carlie said.
LaDante’s frame was filled with blue and white snowflakes and was going to be filled with a photo of him and Santa.
“I’ve been really good and it would be super-amazing if Santa could bring me a Wii system, Wolverine toy, Wolverine game . . . ” and LaDante’s list went on.