Siad Shaleh of Lewiston and Carrie Ricker School Principal Dani Finn talk with third-grade students during a Cultural Competencies Series assembly at the Litchfield school in September. Shaleh is a native of Somalia and Finn is Filipino. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LITCHFIELD — Principal Dani Finn knew what an impact the diverse speakers were having when one of her students said their favorite food was “biko biko.”

Finn, the first-year principal at Carrie Ricker School in Litchfield, was the initial guest who recently kicked off the school’s Cultural Competencies Series, a lineup of guests from around the world.

Finn, who is from the Philippines, wants to share her culture and many others with her students.

“They live in Litchfield and can’t travel the world. But I can bring the world to them,” she said.

Up next was Siad Shaleh, who was born in Somalia and raised in a refugee camp in Kenya. Shaleh visited the school in September.

Principal Dani Finn gives Siad Shaleh a hug at Carrie Ricker School in Litchfield in September. Shaleh was a guest speaker for the school’s Cultural Competencies Series. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Somalia is 7,172 miles from Litchfield, Shaleh told the mainly white audience. Women are modest and cover their hair for religious purposes and “we eat goat meat,” Shaleh told the students before answering many questions.

“The kids will go back to classroom and ask even more questions,” Finn said.

Brandon LeClair, owner of the Italian Bakery in Lewiston, will visit soon to talk about growing up in a Franco-American household. A few days following LeClair, Lewiston High School students will share their perspective on living in an increasingly diverse city.

“The diversity in Lewiston is incredible,” Finn said. “Being so close to Lewiston is an amazing opportunity for our kids and our staff.”

The Rev. Jon Emanuelson of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Lewiston will talk with students about Greek dancing and culture, and Lewiston police officer Joe Philippon with tell kids about his Indian heritage.

“A lot of our students have not been exposed to different cultures,” Regional School Unit 4 Superintendent Andy Carlton. “Principal Finn is showing them that there is a larger world out there.”

Finn said bringing in guests has made coming to school a bit more comfortable for two of her South African students.

“The conversations we have had have opened the door for them to talk about who they are,” Finn said. “They are loving the fact that they are different and that they belong now.”

“I love when my students can tell me that they feel at home here,” she said.

“At the end of the day it’s all about the kids,” she said. “They are very curious and asking lots of questions.”

The students are taking in the lessons.

“I didn’t know they have camels in Somalia,” third-grader Jillian Smith said. “I always thought they were in Egypt.

“Women hide their hair because of their religion,” third-grader Rosalyn Cote said.

“I want to go to England,” said Mavery Mcfarland.

“I want to go to France,” Smith said.

“Biko” is a Filipino sticky rice treat, Finn said.

“I am big on diversity and culture,” she said. “I want the students to see the world.”

Siad Shaleh of Lewiston talks to third-graders at Carrie Ricker School in Litchfield about his Somali heritage. Shaleh was a guest speaker for the school’s Cultural Competencies Series in September. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo


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