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Students embrace diversity, new cultures at MPS World Fair

Posted at 6:44 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 19:44:40-04

MILWAUKEE — For many Milwaukee Public School (MPS) students, Tuesday's MPS World Fair may just be the beginning of their international careers.

"I was learning about things I didn't know, and I see all these amazing people with their outfits," said Shauniya Bailey, a student who presented on China this year.

Shauniya wore a cheongsam, a traditional Chinese dress, and modeled it onstage for other students at UWM Panther Arena.

She was one of nearly 3,000 students from 14 of the district's most diverse schools to take part in the fair, according to MPS.

The fair is the featured year-end event of the United Nations Schools of International Learning (UNSIL), an MPS program.

Tuesday marked the fifth anniversary.

UNSIL teaches students research, writing and presenting skills to use in the real-world.

"It's just a tremendous program to help them become world citizens, which they do in fact," said Annette Robertson, UNSIL co-founder.

This year, the students — all 4th through 8th graders — put together presentations on 193 countries. There was also Latin, Italian and Ukrainian dance groups and a choir.

In 2019 and 2020, MPS had to cancel the fair because of the pandemic.

"The excitement is in the air. You can see the children in their light blue t-shirts, running around with their passport cards," said Superintendent Keith Posley.

Passports, albeit fake ones, that take them around the "world" to explore various cultures, economies and governments.

Many of the kids wouldn't have a chance outside of Panther Arena.

Annette Robertson hopes they continue their studies of the United Nations (UN) and the world beyond eighth grade.

"It's opened their eyes, and broadened them to value their education, and value the UN, and value countries around the world and value what's happening in Ukraine," said Robertson.

For Shauniya, the fair was a chance to learn a new culture and find new confidence in the unfamiliar.

"I was a little nervous. But at the same time, everybody was motivating me to go on stage and I feel like, today, it was a lot of experience," she said.

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