• One Poco Night celebrates cultural pride


    A couple of young girls dancing on stageAs someone who still performs the dance herself, Shalini Verma felt a rush of pride watching her daughter, a third-grade student at Pocantico Hills, demonstrate Kathak, an ancient Indian classical dance form. When her daughter’s routine was finished, her mother immediately tried to hug her off-stage, but first had to wade through the handful of well-wishing friends who had arrived first.


    She said the success of her daughter’s routine was an achievement of its own; however, seeing her embrace and share her culture and traditions only enhanced it.


    “It can be easy to pick up what you see around you and your culture can get lost,” said Ms. Verma, who is originally from India. “But this event helps them to build that confidence to be proud of where you come from.”


    The Vermas were one of many families who shared in this mission of One Poco Night, which was hosted by the Pocantico Hills Central School District for the fifth time on Thursday, January 25. Hundreds of students, parents, teachers and administrators participated in the annual event, which began with performances and demonstrations in the school auditorium and continued in the gym. The space was filled with dozens of tables that featured foods and fun crafts that celebrated different cultures around the world.

    A young child dancing on stage

     “One Poco Night is one of the most special nights of the year for Pocantico,” said Principal Adam Brown, who arrived with an empty stomach and sampled many different offerings. “Because we are so diverse — our families come from over 80 different countries, speak dozens of languages, and have so many of their own cultural roots to share — tonight is a night when people can come together and celebrate each other through food, through dance, through traditions. It’s a night of joy and togetherness for our school.”


    One Poco Night began as an initiative to celebrate the school’s rich diversity and its footprint only continues to expand, as was evident at this year’s event. Music teacher Sheila DePaola, who helped Mr. Brown organize the night and served as the emcee in the auditorium, said students at every age from PreK through sixth grade participated.


    “The parents spent a lot of time together with their kids working on these performances,” Ms. DePaola said. “This is probably the most acts we’ve ever had perform.”


    Spectators in the standing-room-only auditorium saw seven different performances in all, plus a fashion show with various forms of attire that represented different cultures. The acts celebrated Arabic, Dominican, Indian, Italian, and Chinese cultures. The finale featured sixth-grader Claire W., who performed on the guzheng, a classical Chinese harp.


    Third-grader Clara M. danced Tarantella alongside her sister, Enza, a first-grade student, to honor their grandmother, who is from Italy.


    “That’s important to me,” Clara said. “I wanted to do it because I can represent my culture. That makes me feel good and feel proud.”


    That sense of cultural pride has become the overriding mission of One Poco Night. It has given students and their families the opportunity to share more of themselves with the community.