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Sewickley Academy International Dinner set for Saturday

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

Pooja Pokharna hopes everyone who comes to Sewickley Academy's annual international dinner on Saturday learns something new about the many cultures in the world.

She and other members of the Students Advocating for Equity, or SAFE, club have been working for a year to pull the event together, which involves several academy culture clubs and other groups that will make presentations, perform and donate food for the free event.

The SAFE Club's mission is to maintain an inclusive school community by raising awareness about other cultures.

Pooja, club vice president has been involved with the international dinner for all four years of high school.

She also is president of the French and Italian Club and vice president of the Indian Culture Appreciation Club and is performing this year, as well.

The purpose of the event, which began in the 1990s, is to come together while celebrating diversity, said Jeremiah Jackson, academy director of diversity.

Participating will be Chinese Culture Club, Irish Culture Club, Project Bateye, Spanish Culture Club, Jewish Culture Club, Indian Cultural Awareness Club and French and Italian Club.

Irish Culture Club presidents senior Aubrey Gedeon and junior Andrew Nassar and fellow club members will perform a skit about the history and cultural relevance of the often misunderstood leprechaun.

Indian Cultural Appreciation Club presidents seniors Sharran Chakravorty and Rishin Doshi and their fellow club members also will participate with food, dance and costumes.

Sharran said the food is his favorite part of the event.

“When I was a freshman, it was actually one of the main things that spurred my integration into this new community as well,” said Sharran who was born in Buffalo, N.Y. His parents, Sangeeta of Sewickley and Sudeep of the North Hills, were born and educated in India.

“For international dinner, as seems to be tradition, we will be putting on a Punjabi dance called bhangra for a few minutes,” Sharran said.

Amal Chabra, club vice president, competes around Pittsburgh with a team and is an excellent dancer and choreographer, she added.

“Pooja, secretary of the club, has the luck of having a dad who is both an extremely nice guy and an extremely good cook. He will be making most of the food — channa, spicy Indian chickpeas, and naan, which is a kind of bread,” she said.

Members will wear traditional Indian attire for the event.

The men will wear kurtas, and the women will wear kurtis, a feminine version of the shirts.

Spanish Culture Club presidents seniors Jake Mulholland and Nehemiah Norris and fellow club members will present a slideshow that explores the cultures of seven Latin American countries.

Chinese Culture Club presidents sophomores Janelle Sands and Adele Yang and fellow club members will perform “Pao Ma Liu Liu,” a Chinese folk song. Freshman Karen Chen is the lead vocalist, and the other students will perform the traditional dance for the piece.

Jewish Culture Club presidents junior Amanda McLeod and senior Isabelle Werner and other club members will perform a play about Purim a Jewish holiday. “Purim,” the play, chronicles the story of Esther's courage to stand up to authority and put the lives of her people before her own.

In years past, such dishes as beignets, challah, Irish stew, lox, naan, quiche, and samosas have been served, some of which might again appear on the menu, Jackson said.

“I think the food and performances themselves will stand out the most,” Pooja said.

“The clubs have put a lot of time and effort into this, and I'm sure they will all do a great job in representing the various cultures that will be showcased.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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