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Published: Wednesday, 2/10/2010

Global Understanding Summit a primer on diversity at Perrysburg Junior High

Mohammed Darabie of BGSU's Center for International Comparative Education jokes with Perrysburg students as he writes their names in Arabic. Mohammed Darabie of BGSU's Center for International Comparative Education jokes with Perrysburg students as he writes their names in Arabic.
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With passport in hand, Kayla Sweeny went on a whirlwind trip around the world, all without leaving Perrysburg.

A sixth-grade student, Kayla was one of hundreds of people who attended the first-ever Global Understanding Summit at Perrysburg Junior High School.

She and other students strolled from booth to booth where they listened and learned - and then had their Event Passports stamped with ink or validated with stickers.

"We can get extra credit that way," said Kayla. "We are just doing this to learn about diversity and other countries."

Designed to celebrate diversity in the Perrysburg community, the event last week provided area residents with an opportunity to experience multiculturalism in a variety of formats, including dance, art, music, and food.

The event featured informational business and career booths plus hands-on activities.

Gabby Smiczek, 9, dabbed silver and gold glitter glue on a flattened coffee filter, creating artwork for a play production as her mother, Cindy, watched.

Mrs. Smiczek said she was intrigued when she heard about the summit, particularly because she and her family just moved to the community at Christmas time from North Carolina.

Although she isn't new to the area - she is a Perrysburg graduate - this is the first time her children, including son Timmy, who is a student at the junior high, have lived in Perrysburg.

"I wanted us to come to see about what is happening in Perrysburg. It's neat," Mrs. Smiczek said.

The decorated coffee filters will be sewn or stapled onto green fabric to represent scales on a dragon, said Diane Korczyk, who was assisting at the Mulan booth.

Her son, Kevin, has been cast as the emperor in the Mulan production, which will be presented by the drama department Feb. 25-27 at the junior high. She said she was pleased to see the success of the summit.

At a nearby display, Douglas Bahnsen, portraying Wolf Stands on Two Feet, twisted a slender stick and sent an old-fashioned helicopter flying.

"It has no batteries, and you can make it yourself," he told students gathered around the Perrysburg Area Historic Museum exhibit.

Mr. Bahnsen of Perrysburg, an actor, historian, and environmentalist, is known for educational programs he presents across the Toledo area.

The Perrysburg Global Initiative, with funding by the Ohio Department of Education and the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, sponsored the free event as a venue that educates, encourages, respects, and accepts diversity in the Perrysburg community.

Wearing a yellow sweatshirt lettered with "Celebrating diversity in our own backyard," Global Summit committee member Dina Zmuda, a sixth-grade science teacher at the junior high school, said she had learned "so much about so many groups."

Maggie Gall, academic coordinator for Cultural Homestay International, handed out information about Deborah House, which assists Romanian children.

Mrs. Gall, who is from Romania, lives in Perrysburg. Her daughter Cynthia Gall, 17, a junior at Perrysburg High, participated in the summit as well.

"This is a nice way for people to know about each other," Mrs. Gall said.

The turnout at the summit was remarkable, said Bill Hilt, Perrysburg Junior High School social studies teacher, who coordinated the event. "For a first-time event, wow, I don't even know what to say."

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