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The Hartford Courant

Dwight Elementary School Honors Diverse Heritage

By MELISSA PIONZIO, Courant Staff Writer

June 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Hartford Courant. All rights reserved. 

With drums beating and raindrops falling, Dwight Elementary School students, staff and parents celebrated 120 years of school history Thursday during a schoolwide assembly.

Out in the school courtyard where the ceremony began, Mayor Eddie A. Perez, Schools Superintendent Robert Henry and other guests helped children raise flags from 23 countries, representing the lands the students hail from.

"We learned that it don't matter what kind of country you come from or what color your skin is," 10-year-old Anthony Diaz said of the ceremony. "You can still be friends."

Covanta Energy, which has a resource recovery facility in Hartford and other facilities around the state, sponsored the event and purchased the flags for the ceremony. Countries represented included Ecuador, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Argentina, Bangladesh, China, Jamaica, Italy, Vietnam and Costa Rica.

"I like that they represent every country in our school," fourth-grader Wilfredo Roman said of the flags. "We like that they let everybody come here."

Students first started attending Dwight School in the South End neighborhood in 1883 when it was called the Wethersfield Avenue School. It was renamed in 1914 for Henry Cecil Dwight, the South End district chairman. Dwight, a Civil War veteran, wool merchant and a founder of the Mechanics Savings Bank, was Hartford's mayor from 1890 to 1892. Over the years, the Dwight neighborhood has been home to people of Italian, Irish, African American, Latino and most recently Bosnian and Albanian descent.

Dwight Wadsworth, Henry Dwight's great-great-grandson, attended the ceremony.

"I think he would have been thrilled," he said of Dwight.

Along with the flag raising, an exhibit of student artwork covered the walls of the building's first floor. Colorful peacocks for India; painted clay frogs for South America; woven mats; glittery, festive masks and self-portraits were just a few of the items students created in response to what they have learned about each other.

Deputy Superintendent of Schools Jaime Aquino, a native of the Dominican Republic, said he was invited by a Dwight student who is also Dominican.

"To be part of a celebration that honors the different cultures is important," said

Aquino as he surveyed the artwork. "Diversity is the strength of this nation."

Up on the fourth floor, a sea of Dwight students sat cross-legged in the gymnasium, watching as each grade took turns performing songs, dances and poetry from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Japan, America, Africa, Albania and Bosnia.

There was also a fashion show featuring styles from India.

"It demonstrates the diversity that we have in this school, in the city and the entire world," Henry said of the day's festivities.

In the audience, Sylvia and Antonio Negron waved to their first-grader, Adriana Negron, as she waited to sing Yankee Doodle with her classmates.

"She's excited," said Antonio Negron. " She's been talking about this for a good week straight."

For the Negrons, Dwight is a successful school because of its diversity, dedicated staff and the support of the parents. Such a mix of cultures within one school is the way all schools should be, said Antonio Negron.

"I don't even think the kids know race, there are so many different kids here," he said. "You can tell by the way the act together. They just like to play with each other."

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