Norwich adult education's fall fest has international flavor

Catlin McMahon, center, of Norwich, a Norwich Adult Education student, applauds after one of her friends, Jeremy Novoa of Norwich, also a student, ended his brief comment on stage with a dance move during the annual Norwich Adult Education Fall Festival and Multicultural Brunch Thursday, held in the lower level of St. Mary's Church in Norwich. Two fellow students, Nicole Dow, back left, of Preston and Anna Timken, right, of Stonington, share the laugh.

Norwich - This day at school combined history, culture, social studies, public speaking and citizenship lessons in a 90-minute course.

Make that several courses, all delicious.

Norwich Regional Adult Education held its annual Fall Festival and Multicultural Brunch, featuring an international banquet of dishes prepared by dozens of immigrant students in the program's English language classes. Adult Education Director Mary Berry brought in a platter of traditional American turkey.

More than 100 students, teachers and guests enjoyed the fare at the hall at St. Mary's Church in Greene ville, raving about favorite dishes that surprised them with the first bite.

A Haitian cold potato-and-beet salad - called a pink salad in English - proved a popular dish. Meatballs, egg rolls, meat and vegetable pastries, lasagna, casseroles of potatoes, noodles of many types, chicken, beef and more rice filled out the long banquet table.

Kuan Sin Leong made a bright green coconut tapioca cake that was gone long before the collection of store-bought American cookies, doughnuts and pies. Student Ivonne Castro contributed arroz con leche, a Mexican rice pudding with raisins and cinnamon.

Juana Napuri offered her recipe for traditional Mexican tamales. American recipes call for wrapping and steaming the meat, oil and flour mixture in corn husks, but Napuri uses real banana leaves - hoja de banano. Guests marveled at the carefully wrapped finished product.

Napuri said she makes them at home, starting on Saturday for a Monday meal.

An event of this caliber attracts dignitaries from throughout the region. State Sen. Edith Prague, who will retire in early January after 18 years in the Senate, rarely misses the fall festival. Prague asked for one of the festive bright orange autumn-themed aprons worn by Adult Ed teachers who worked the event and dutifully stayed past dessert and "thank yous" to clean tables.

Prague, who recently attended the citizenship celebration for some Adult Ed students, said her family emigrated to the United States from Russia. She recalled how her grandmother took English classes and would carry around a notebook to write down new words she heard in conversation to learn them.

"I'm 86 years old, and I've been coming to this event for a long time," Prague said to cheers and applause. "I'm going to keep coming."

Aileen Halloran, a member of the Adult Training and Development Network at the Capitol Region Education Council, greeted students and said she loved to hear how families celebrate holidays at home and in their homelands.

"Here in Norwich, they do such a wonderful job making everyone feel like they are part of the family," Halloran said.


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