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District celebrates 'New Neighbor Night'

Fatuma Aimad and Zahara Mohamed try food from different countries during the New Neighbor Night in West Fargo on Thursday, April 18. The program featured food from different countries, face painting, Henne tattoos, door prizes, a talent and fashion show and more. Carrie Snyder / Forum News Service2 / 3
Sahra Abdullahi, a fifth-grader at Eastwood Elementary, gets her face painted by Ceara Melicher an ELL teacher from Westside Elementary during the New Neighbor Night at West Fargo High School on Thursday, April 18, 2013. Carrie Snyder / Forum News Service3 / 3

Many members of the West Fargo School District spent Thursday night celebrating the second annual "New Neighbor Night" in the West Fargo High School gym.

The event was held to "increase cultural awareness and to build cultural pride among all attendees, regardless of their race, ethnicity or origin." Students and their families shared their culture and learned about different cultures, visited with friends and started growing relationships across the school and community.

"We spend the entire school year teaching (English language learning students) about U.S. culture and what it means," said Nicole Manson, the West Fargo School District's ELL coordinator who helped bring the event together. "This was their night to teach us about their culture. It is a chance to not only celebrate, but learn from each other."

New Neighbor Night was established last year as a way to recognize and honor the diversity within the school district, along with the district's growing population of new Americans.

Last year's event saw roughly 600 West Fargo residents attend. This year saw an even higher number in attendance.

"We gave out about 700 utensils, which is our rudimentary way of counting," Manson said. "If I had to guess, I would say we had about 800 people."

"New Neighbor Night was unbelievable," school board president Kay Kiefer said. "The energy and enthusiasm in the building was amazing. Overall, it was a stunningly successful night."

A dinner was served that featured various foods from several different countries, including China, Iraq, Burundi and, of course, the United States.

There was also a talent show, featuring students of various ages and ethnicities performing traditional dances of Somalians and Native Americans, as well as musicians from around the world playing guitar and drums.

There was also a fashion show featuring designs from Egypt, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among others.

Other events included face painting, henna temporary tattoos and door prizes.

Set in the high school auditorium last year, Manson knew a more spacious setting was needed this time.

"We planned for 200 people last year," Manson said. "When we had 600 show up, I knew we would need the gym from now on."

Help was also provided, both in the form of donations and physical volunteering, from students and community members throughout the district.

"Our community never disappoints to provide volunteers," Manson said. "We had so many people step forward and give funds for the event. They stepped up in a huge way and were extremely generous."