AUBURN — Edward Little High School senior Barrak Abdraba, 18, wants the public to hear his poem, “A Message.”

“It’s about my sister,” he said.

The school is holding its annual Culture Night on Tuesday, when students will share their stories and culture with the public.

“We want people to see our stories, to know more about us,” Abdraba said.

His family is from Iraq. His sister is in Jordan.

“We left her there,” he said. “She couldn’t get over here. We’re working on trying to get her here.”


Abdraba’s poem is one of dozens of performances giving insight to some of Auburn’s immigrant students.

Culture Night begins at 6 p.m. with a welcome from Mayor Jonathan LaBonte. Every 10 to 15 minutes a talk, personal story, poem or dance will be shared.

At 6:45 p.m., there’ll be an intermission with food “from all over the world,” donated by families in the community, high school teacher and organizer Erin Towns said.

At 7:15 p.m., an international fashion show will be held. 

The last event, at 7:45 p.m., is a global dance performed by students Joanna Jimenez and Marta Howard.

“It’s a very flexible event,” Towns said. “If people don’t think they can (attend for) that much time, they can stop in for a little bit.”


The high school has students from 23 countries, including Somalia, Iraq, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Togo, Ghana, South Africa, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, China, Russia, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Sudan, India and Thailand.

Six percent of students in Auburn public schools are learning English. That’s 200, compared to 124 students 10 years ago. Most were Somali.

The high school’s new student club, Edward Little Cultural Alliance, is putting on Culture Night.

Some of Town’s students have done independent study on refugee and global migration for the Camden Conference, a foreign policy conference which has the goal of promoting more foreign affairs knowledge in high school curriculums.

The student coordinators of Culture Night are Shadia Abdulahi, 16, whose parents are from Somalia and Ethiopia; and Gloria Agossou, 16, whose parents are from Togo.

“People are aware there are different cultures in Auburn, Maine, but nobody gets to experience those cultures firsthand,” Abdulahi said.


Sara Kalonda, 17, a junior, is the master of ceremonies for the fashion show.

“There’ll be different outfits from all over the world,” she said.

One-on-one stories is the best way to break down barriers, Towns said.  

“When a student shares their story with somebody else, that communication breaks down stereotypes. It illustrates what’s similar.”

Global education teacher Erin Towns, third from right, and her students go over logistics for Culture Night at Edward Little High School on Monday. Edward Little Cultural Alliance members Shadia Abdulahi, left, Barrak Abdraba, Johana Jimenez, Gloria Agossou, Towns, Ruwayda Abdullahi and Sara Kalonda will participate in the activities that represent the diverse student body during Tuesday’s cultural showcase that begins at 6 p.m. at the high school in Auburn. 


Go and do:

What: Edward Little Culture Night at high school gym

When: Tuesday, May 16, starting at 6 p.m.

Schedule of events

6 p.m. — Welcome by Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte and student Yasmin Farah;

6:10-6:30 p.m. — The power of stories by teacher Erin Towns, culture of Somalia, Fowsia Musse.


6:35-6:45 — Student slam poets, Barrak Abdraba and Shukri Abdirahman; Life in Ecuador by Johanna Jimenez.

6:45 — Intermission, food, cultural exhibits.

7:15 — Fashion show

7:35 — Talk about drought and refugees in eastern Africa, Najmo Ali.

7:45 — Global dance by Joanna Jimenez and Marta Howard.

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