Building Bridges to New Cultures
In a high school setting, it is normal to have friend groups and “cliques.” By this age, teenagers have their set friends and don’t really make an effort to make new ones. It is hard for new students to make friends and blend into groups of people who have been friends for years, but it is especially hard for ESL students to put themselves out there into mainstream high school. This year at NHS, Mrs. Julie Mitschow, Coordinator of World Languages and ESL, came up with a solution to end this cycle.
The Building Bridges Club, created by Mrs. Mitschow, is working to connect cultures, languages, and people. The club gives students an opportunity to engage in activities across different grades, cultures, add languages to create bonds throughout the school community. As a former ESL teacher, Mrs. Mitschow stated, “I felt as though the kids were disconnected to things like homecoming games for example. They weren't really part of the community so we are trying to build these bridges not just for them, but for everybody to come to a safe space. People need to be able to talk to each other after you get your heads out of your phones and look up and talk to each other and socialize. This club integrates everybody to the community of our school which is our main goal.”
One of the club members, junior Allison Ponton, thought of the idea to have a pumpkin painting activity to bring the students closer and to be able to work together. The Nutley ShopRite donated about 20 pumpkins to the club and during the lunch block on October 24, students met in Mr. Gaetano Sollazzo’s room to participate in the activity. There was a large turnout and from the looks of it, students were talking and collaborating on how they wanted to paint their pumpkins. After everyone was done, the students took their pumpkins to the senior courtyard to be displayed as students walk to their classes. By the end of the period, a few students were exchanging phone numbers, overall meeting the goal of the activity and club as a whole.
So far, the club seems to be a success. Mrs. Mitschow hopes to branch out and make the club available at the middle and elementary schools in town to bring the younger grades closer together so they can learn about other cultures and understand the differences they have compared to life here.