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At Zephyrhills High, lunch break a world away

Using a henna pen to demonstrate an ancient Indian tradition, Kelli Winn, 18, paints a temporary tattoo on the arm of Danielle Guevette, 15, during an International Education Celebration at Zephyrhills High.

MICHELE MILLER | Times

Using a henna pen to demonstrate an ancient Indian tradition, Kelli Winn, 18, paints a temporary tattoo on the arm of Danielle Guevette, 15, during an International Education Celebration at Zephyrhills High.

ZEPHYRHILLS

Diversity is something to be celebrated.

Just ask Jeffra Flaitz and Danielle Zinna, two teachers at Zephyrhills High School.

Not too long ago, the two took a good look at their student population and decided it was time to mix things up a bit.

"We have 35 different nationalities represented here," said Flaitz, who is an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) resource teacher at the school. "I counted."

"We know that our student population is getting more and more diverse," she said. "We wanted to take the first step toward celebrating it. Not just recognizing it, but celebrating it."

Thus, International Education Week was born at Zeph High.

And celebrate they did last week, in a whole bunch of different ways.

It was also the week of the Great American Teach-In, and to be sure, there were lots of folks venturing in to talk to students about their careers and hobbies.

But during lunch periods, students were given the opportunity to widen their horizons a bit and travel the world — all in the comfort of the school commons area.

There, many lined up for henna tattoos penned by students in the Art Honors class or to have their caricatures done in anime form. Others took a chance at making an origami crane or smacking a pinata that was filled with Thai ginger candy and lollipops coated in chili pepper.

Each day on the school's morning news show, students were taught how to say "good morning" in various languages — Vietnamese, Thai, Spanish and Korean. They also learned to write their names in different script and take part in a rather fun Geography Bee, said Zinna, a reading teacher.

Students in ESOL classes created colorful and informative posters to hang and shared with other students the differences and similarities between the schools here and in their home countries.

"I've been hearing from the teachers that the kids in the classrooms were really paying attention," Zinna said. "We've been pleasantly surprised."

"It's been a lot of fun," said senior Caitlyn Ungerer, 18, who was out and about taking pictures for the school yearbook. "There's been dancing and food tasting," she said rattling off a laundry list of her highlights. "An international fashion show — that was really cool. And eating M&M's with chopsticks. That was SO hard."

And so it happens, there was some flirting in French going on, albeit somewhat lamely according to Ashley Zullo, 18.

" 'Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?' All the boys were going around saying that in French," she said, rolling her eyes.

"It's been great, really interesting," said Nancy Frias, 18, as she sported a henna tattoo drawn by Kelli Winn, 18, who came dressed in a black saree from India.

So was the saree part of her heritage?

"I wish," she said, with a sigh, as she got ready to tattoo the next student. "But it's not part of my culture. I'm just a white girl."

At Zephyrhills High, lunch break a world away 11/25/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 28, 2008 7:02am]
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