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Mt. Lebanon's International Fair celebrates cultural diversity

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 9:20 p.m.
Students at Jefferson Middle School sign up for jobs at the sixth annual International Night. Each year, students from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds make dishes for a pot-luck dinner, run games, perform traditional dances and music, and put on a fashion show of traditional international costumes.

Jefferson Middle School students in Mt. Lebanon will celebrate their diverse backgrounds and raise money for charity at their sixth International Fair.

A potluck dinner of ethnic dishes prepared by students and their families will accompany games, music, dancing and a costume fashion show on Thursday to demonstrate the varied backgrounds of Mt. Lebanon students and their families. The event is open to the public.

“I thought that creating a club, where all students of all backgrounds and abilities would be welcome, would help to foster bonds between both students and their families,” said Ashlee Beckett, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at the school. “We then had our first International Night to celebrate our diversity and the unique ethnic and cultural backgrounds we have here in Mt. Lebanon.”

Since then, the club has become the largest student organization at Jefferson, with about 80 active members, Beckett said.

At International Night, which is mainly planned and executed by club members, families get the chance to sample each other's ethnic cuisine at the potluck dinner. Jobs like running games, face-painting and henna tattoos, and announcing acts are all elaborately scheduled. Money raised at the door and through a raffle of gift baskets with international themes will go to charity.

“I also wanted our group to not only recognize and respect where they come from, but I also wanted our students to understand the need of support for those outside of the U.S. who are not as fortunate,” she said.

Through Beckett's uncle, former Duquesne University baseball coach Rich Spear, International Night became a fundraiser for orphanages Spear helps run in Cali, Colombia, and Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Each year, Spear visits a meeting of the International Club to talk about the orphanages and the poverty, lack of food, water and electricity children face otherwise, he said.

“It prompts (the students) to work hard. ... They respond tremendously,” Spear said. “It went very nicely the first year, and it just keeps getting bigger.”

International Night runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 at Jefferson Middle School on Moffett Street.

Entry is $5 per student, $15 for a family of three to five people, and $25 for families of six or more.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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