Learning about different cultures and experiencing their cuisine. It’s what Keystone Club members from Nappanee, Goshen and Middlebury are doing at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County.
They recently took part in a Culture Day and Panel Discussion event titled “Reaching Equity In Our Diversity.”
Keystone Club gives teens an opportunity to gain valuable leadership and service experience. They conduct activities in four areas: academic success, career exploration, community service and teen outreach. With the guidance of an adult advisor, Keystone Clubs aim to positively impact teens, their Club and local communities.
For this event, teens from each Club researched different cultures. Goshen focused on Ukraine, Peru and Bulgaria. Nappanee featured Nordic countries of Iceland, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Middlebury researched Japan, Taiwan and India.
“We wanted them to understand the different cultures and their traditions,” said Middlebury Club Program Manager Rhonda Eicher. “We want them to respect other cultures by understanding their traditions and customs.”
Eicher said it was difficult for the teens to narrow down their choices to just three countries. Goshen Club Program Manager Natalie Jerlecki said the goal was to create an immersive experience.
“They researched each country and spoke to someone who is first generation from that country,” she said.
The work made an impact on the teens.
“I discovered a lot of similarities that I didn’t know about,” said teen member Kristina. “We found out that in our areas, we all had flan as desserts, but they’re called something different.”
The Goshen group prepared shopska salata, a Bulgarian salad, and borscht, a beet soup. Nappanee’s foods focused on a connection to their teen supervisor Leeah Worley.
“They wanted to know what recipes my family makes,” she said. “From there, it expanded into other Nordic countries.”
They prepared Swedish meatball and nissua, a Finnish sweet bread. Worley said because they focused on five countries, they were able to split up and discover things the teens didn’t know about contributions from those countries.
“I learned a lot of interesting fact, like Nokia came from this area,” said teen member Kalob.
The Middlebury group prepared sushi, tikka marsala curry chicken, jasmine rice and boba tea.
“They loved it,” Eicher said. “They had fun researching the food aspect and how to prepare it.”
After the teens tried foods from the other groups, they took part in a panel discussion with people in the community from different cultures.