For The Weekly Herald/ANNIE MULLIGAN
Mountlake Terrace High School senior Gulia Velluti welcomes a crowd of friends, family and students to the multicultural event she co-hosted as part of her senior project on March 21, 2012. Fellow seniors Janis Gonzalez and Melvin Banuelos helped host the evening which included food, decorations and performances.
“We wanted to show diversity at our school,” said Giulia Velluti, 18, during the event. “We're so different but at the same time we're the same, if that makes sense.”
Velluti along with Janis Gonzales and Melvin Banuelos advertised, decorated, cooked and recruited entertainers for the event with funding from the school as well as paying out of pocket.
Their goal was to help people learn new things about each other and be more accepting of differences. “We're not necessarily trying to change their minds, but we're trying to open their eyes to different cultures,” Velluti said after the event.
There are a lot of cliques at Mountlake Terrace High School, and some have to do with race, said Gonzales, 18. But if you put everyone together, as they were at the dinner, it lets different groups see what the others are all about.
Even the entertainers, which ranged from hip hop and break dancing to singing and drums, represented different cultures.
Organizing the event was the trio's shared senior project. The students spent months planning and researching recipes to represent each continent. They were required to spend at least 40 hours preparing.
“You have to compromise in projects like this, that's one thing I really learned,” Velluti said. “We made it work.”
Banuelos, 18, catered the event with help from his team of peers in the school's catering class. “My chef team was dependable, reliable and did better than I expected,” Banuelos said.
Banuelos researched spices and herbs used on each continent and chose dishes from countries with the highest population that also are recognized for their cuisine.
“I hope for people to be aware of different flavors and foods and try foods they've never tasted,” he said. Banuelos' mentor was Michael Felsenstein, the executive chef for the Lynnwood Convention Center. “He taught me how to run a good catering team, plan ahead and expect the unexpected,” Banuelos said.
It helped to have friends, teachers and family offer support, Gonzales said. Her parents reassured her they were behind her and encouraged her to keep doing her best. Her friend, Jilene Guiano, kept pushing her to succeed. Her project mentor reminded her to meet deadlines.
Guiano taught a group of Brier Terrace Middle School students hip hop. Those students performed during the event.
“(Guiano) said, ‘Even if it's a disaster, at least it'll be a fun disaster because I'll be there with you,'” Gonzales said.