EDITOR’S NOTE: At the end of each year, the Daily Times-Call updates readers with its “Where Are They Now” series, which revisits notable area newsmakers and finds out how they’re faring. Through Tuesday, Times-Call staff writers will bring you stories and vignettes about people, animals and even a Pluto-bound spacecraft featured on our pages over the past year.
LONGMONT — Maddie Toretto’s last name once included an “a.”
Hannah Brague’s Mormon ancestors immigrated to the United States from Iceland seeking religious freedom.
The two Altona Middle School fifth-graders learned these facts while researching their family histories — interviewing relatives, gathering photographs and making maps — for a heritage festival Dec. 15.
During the festival, all the fifth-grade students shared ethnic foods and showed off the posters they had created, which featured stories, photographs and family trees.
They learned how to research information on the computer, and the stories and posters made a writing project of the assignment, said Ali Knight, one of the school’s fifth-grade teachers.
“We turned it into a much bigger project than just a multicultural lunch,” she said.
Fifth-graders in Knight’s class were featured in the Daily Times-Call in August after their first day at Altona. The fifth-graders are attending Altona Middle School this year because Eagle Crest Elementary, on the same campus, is too crowded.
When the school year began, Knight’s students had some trouble learning to open their lockers, but all the students said that is no longer a problem.
The students are excited about being at the middle school, where they can choose what they eat for lunch and have more options for electives.
Rishab Gangopadhyay, who plays the violin, said he expects the orchestra to be much better when he is in eighth grade because the players will have four years of practice instead of the usual three.
Hannah said she enjoys attending Altona because “it has been fun, and I’ve made lots of friends.”
Saranya Budamgunta prefers Altona to Eagle Crest.
“I like it here because we’ve been (at Eagle Crest) since kindergarten, and it’s kind of getting boring,” she said.
Judging by the potluck lunch, the heritage festival was anything but boring. Hannah brought boterkoek, an almond-flavored, cake-like dessert. Her schoolmates also had the chance to taste such interesting foods as gemüse, a soup of ham, potatoes and green beans; lasagna; German chocolate cake; and potato salad.
While they ate, the students perused their classmate’s posters and learned about each other’s heritage.
Hannah’s ancestors were among the first immigrants from Iceland.
“My ancestors traveled from Vestmannaeyjar to Reykjavík, then across the ocean to the U.S.,” she wrote on her poster, which also included a satellite photograph of Iceland.
Her poster also featured a photograph of her grandfather with the president of Iceland, taken when Olafur Ragnar Grimsson visited Spanish Fork, Utah, to dedicate a memorial to those early immigrants.
Saranya included the national anthem of India, translated into English, and a few Indian coins.
Some students had more difficulty than others with the heritage project.
Rishab said his family has no relatives in Colorado.
“I just tried to focus on my country instead of my family,” Rishab said.
Rishab and his mother, Anuradha Kamath, brought traditional Indian clothing in which Kamath dressed Rishab’s classmates.
Victoria Camron can be reached at 303-684-5226, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.