Thursday, November 15, 2001

Students celebrate culture of India

By Denise Smith Amos
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        GLENDALE — Students and staff at the Bethany School celebrated a new year Wednesday.

        The Catholic convent school celebrated Diwali, the Festival of Lights celebrating the Hindu New Year.

[photo] Teachers at Bethany School in Glendale dressed in Indian clothing on Wednesday to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu New Year.<
(Dick Swaim photo)
| ZOOM |
        Twenty-two of the school's teachers and staff, as well as numerous students and their parents, wore native or traditional dress, including saris, which are dresses made of 6 continuous yards of fabric.

        Corky Averbeck, who teaches cultural studies and religion at the school of 261 students, said her third-grade class is studying India as part of four quarters of international studies.

        “We have a very diverse student body,” Ms. Averbeck said. “We work hard to make sure we are diverse in our education. We also have a large Indian population.”

        More than a tenth of the school's students in kindergarten through eighth grade is Asian-American, she said.

        Each quarter the children immerse themselves in a different Asian culture — Japan, India, Thailand and China. Ms. Averbeck taught in India for 20 years before moving to Cincinnati, she said.

        The Festival of Lights is one of the major holidays, said Padma Srinivasa, who works in the school's library and who helped organize the feast.

        Families light earthen lamps throughout their homes, keeping them burning day and night. They wear new clothes and visit their extended families, giving sweets or condensed milk as gifts.

        Families pray in a temple of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, for a prosperous year. They place candles, flowers and offerings — bowls of nuts, raisin or other foods — before her statues or likeness.

        Ms. Srinivasa brought a statue of the goddess to class for the children to see. Much of Bethany School, which is more than 103 years old, is decked out in Indian decor.

        “Next quarter it'll look like Thailand, then China,” Ms. Averbeck said.



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