Kishwaukee Elementary, First Lutheran partner to celebrate peace, diversityROCKFORD — Children representing about 10 nationalities — just 25 percent of Kishwaukee Elementary School’s diversity pool — sang songs of peace and patriotism Sunday at First Lutheran Church in a joint concert dubbed “Give Peace a Chance.”
The church is one of the school’s many community partners. Kishwaukee Elementary has students from more than 40 nations. Many of the families are refugees who are starting new lives in the United States.
The diversity of the school’s children and their families “opens up a whole world of opportunities” for music education, said Brad Koloch, the school’s music teacher. He and organist Joseph Schenk of First Lutheran and Our Savior’s Lutheran churches presented the musical program to about a hundred people, a mix of congregation members and parents from South Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Schenk opened the concert by playing the national anthems of Myanmar, Dominica, Georgia, India, Sweden and Tanzania on the organ to bring attention to what church and school leaders call Rockford’s “miniature version of the United Nations.”
“This is an amazing experience, an amazing lesson I hope these children understand,” Koloch said. “We don’t have to let our cultural differences separate us and divide us. We can do things together, unify and work together toward a common goal. And when you do that, you can accomplish amazing things. … That’s a microcosm lesson, but a lesson I hope they carry to the world.”
“They represent a cross-section of the world to us,” said the Rev. Jane McChesney of First Lutheran Church. “When I talk to our congregation about mission and about seeing each other and loving one another as we have been loved, that is a way we can share that with the school. … It’s about sharing and building relationships and drawing out the potential and opportunities that we can all share in together.”
Abuk Mathiang is 10. She attends Kishwaukee. She was born in Rockford, but her parents are from South Sudan.
“It’s interesting,” Abuk said of her classmates’ origins. “There are many different languages and cultures. There are different foods, and we learn to play different games.”