The kindergarten class of St. Brendan’s Catholic Elementary School in the Ridgewood-Wilton/St. Andrews Square neighborhood hosted kindergarten students from the Islamic New Horizon School for pizza and playtime. This is the third year the students have gotten together, each time adding their older fellow students, explained Stacy Herman, St. Brendan’s Kindergarten teacher and organizer of the interfaith community-building event.
The New Horizon students were welcomed by St. Brendan’s students singing the Harris J song “Salam Aliakum,” a popular song with the traditional Muslim greeting that translates to “may peace be upon you.” Herman welcomed Mrs. Jolanda Hussain, the principal of New Horizon School, her students and their parents.
Mrs. Hussain said she was thrilled to be back with her students, adding that she had come to church at Christmas and was pleased to recognized some of the students.
“I cannot tell you how excited we are to be here, and I really love how you were signing along with this song,” said Mrs. Hussain. “We have a song for you,” said Hussain, inviting her school to sing their song.
After the New Horizon’s students sang their song, both schools sang “Light a Candle for Peace” together. With the help of parent volunteers from both schools, the students were paired up with their guests by grade and invited to line up for pizza followed by ice cream. After the festivities in the St. Brendan’s gym, all the students went to various classrooms for more games and learning.
“I started this in 2016, right after the election, because I wanted to do something constructive and this was one small thing I could do,” said Stacy Herman, who teaches Kindergarten at St. Brendan’s. Ironically, Herman contacted New Horizon School the very day it had received a bomb threat. “But they didn’t hesitate for a minute. They said we’d love to come,” said Herman.
Herman thanked the parent volunteers for organizing the students and serving pizza. Many parents had students participating in the festivities, but not everyone. Brian Hoye told the Buzz that his kids were all grown, but he attended St. Brendan in 7th and 8th grade. He said he volunteered to get involved and support Herman’s efforts.
“This is the only thing I do,” said Hoye. “It’s very important, and a very concrete thing that can be done to build community.”
Windsor Square resident Jamie Bracco has a daughter in middle school, but told the Buzz that she’s happy to help Herman too.
“I think she’s amazing,” said Bracco, adding that she would volunteer to help Herman with anything she’s planning to build community.
“This is a wonderful community builder,” St. Brendan’s Principal Colette Young told the Buzz. “We a proud to be part of the learning for our students and our parents.”