Alexandria, VA – People from all over the world gathered on the playground of the Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy on Wednesday, April 26th. It wasn’t a typical Washington DC affair, complete with high-ranking dignitaries and embassy officials discussing world problems. This celebration was the Lyles- Crouch Traditional Academy 2023 International Night.
The yearly event honors the melting pot of diverse backgrounds the student body and their families represent. It is an opportunity for the families to showcase their different countries and cultures along with the LCTA staff and surrounding community. “This is our biggest event of the year, and it helps build a better community by learning and experiencing our fellow school families’ cultures and traditions,” explained PTA chairwoman Rebecca Maggard.
Twenty-four countries were represented, including Afghanistan, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. Each student was given a map highlighting the countries participating in the festivities.
The cornucopia of nations represented at LCTA was on full display. Families were asked to signup in advance to host tables showcasing their country. The display shared interesting facts about the history and location; posters with celebrities, authors, and artists; and trinkets unique to the country being presented.
The Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy PTA intends International Night to be a special night for LCTA families. The goal is for families “to come together as a United Nations of Lyles-Crouch and serve as an example of how, in our microcosm of greater Alexandria, we are proud to learn from a multitude of rich, diverse backgrounds.”
According to PTA Chairwoman Maggard, a big part of the excitement is to see what will be on each table. “Last year, the Australian table had an Olympic Torch that the host family’s grandfather had used in the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics,” Maggard recounted.
The evening’s festivities took over the LCTA playground. Students, families and friends, LCTA teachers and staff, and community visitors scattered about the whole area. A giant outdoor stage took over the baseball field. Local food trucks, including Peruvian Brothers, Kona Ice, and Big Cheese, gathered in the parking lot. Families hosted tables arranged by continent and lined up the field in order.
Principal Patricia Zissios used her megaphone to call up the children and introduce them to the crowd before they took to the stage. International Night entertainment had each grade performing traditional Canadian, Greek, and Mexican dances. Students, parents, and teachers have been practicing for the past few weeks to prepare for the annual event.
Student performances included a German tap dance, an Indian dance, an Ethiopian dance, a Hungarian dance, and a Japanese Karate Kata demonstration. One student bravely sang a rendition of the Mylie Cyrus hit song ‘Flowers’ in front of the audience, receiving roaring claps and cheers.
Another evening highlight was a Bollywood-style dance performed by a group of students led by parent Shalini Stewart. They danced to a Telaju-language South Indian song titled “Naatu Naatu” from the critically acclaimed movie RRR.
“The choreography was based on the choreography from the movie. The intricate foot movements, including the main hook step, are especially notable from the movie,” explained Stewart. “We wore silken Indian fabrics as sashes on our shoulders, and wore bindis on our foreheads, a traditional Indian decorative adornment,” he said, describing the costumes.
Stewart informed the crowd of the recent history-making Oscar Award that RRR received for Best Original Song. This added to the excitement of the performance and gave even more meaning to the purpose of International Night.
Stewart spoke to the sentiments of most parents of students at LCTA when she was asked about the most important lessons children take away from their participation in International Night. “The exposure to such a wide array of global cultures at a young age is incredible. LCTA is one of the most diverse student bodies I have ever seen. The kids play together and learn about each other daily. International Night amplifies these connections by bringing parents into the experience to share and teach about our culture through food, music, costume, dance, and more. Kids continue to grow their interest in global cultures and value the differences and similarities they share with their friends. Because of it, they are more well-rounded, aware, and inclusive.”
Like other LCTA parents, Stewart appreciates the transparent communication from the school in the form of weekly newsletters and emails from teachers and the “diverse nature of LCTA’s overall engagement strategy for students, parents, and teachers.”
LCTA is a school that emphasizes the importance of teachers, students, and parents’ involvement in students’ education and learning process. The LCTA mission statement states, “Our mission is to foster a love of learning and to provide each of our students with the skills necessary to meet the challenges of a changing society.”
For more information about the Lyles Crouch Traditional Academy, including making donations and volunteering, visit lcta.acps.k12.va.us.