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Flag Day

Five hundred DeKalb County fifth graders carry flags through NIU

The Parade of Flags ceremony is hosted by NIU's International Programs Department as a means to educate students about the world's many cultures.
The Parade of Flags ceremony is hosted by NIU's International Programs Department as a means to educate students about the world's many cultures.

DEKALB – Led by a police escort, five members of the Northern Illinois University ROTC, members of the NIU marching band and a bearer of the American flag, 500 DeKalb County fifth graders paraded through NIU’s campus, flying nearly 200 flags from nations around the world on Friday, Sept. 18, for the NIU International Programs’ 10th annual Parade of Flags.

“[The Parade of Flags] is to help the school children of DeKalb have a really neat experience with an aspect of international education,” said Deborah Pierce, associate provost for NIU’s International Programs.

The parade stepped off precisely at 11:30 a.m. from the east side of Huskie Stadium and proceeded on Lucinda Avenue to the Martin Luther King Commons. There, students planted the flags on the commons’ grounds and assembled to hear local leaders talk about culture, campus, population, the future and youth.

Prior to step off, fifth graders were treated to a picnic-style luncheon outside Huskie Stadium, during which NIU international students rotated among groups of kids, talking to each group about their various cultures and displaying their nations’ flags. This semester, NIU hosts students from 78 foreign nations.

Fifth graders also had an opportunity to learn about the reverse side of international education when they heard from NIU students who had studied abroad.

“[The students] get to realize that the world comes to DeKalb,” Pierce said.

Pierce has been a part of the parade for eight of its 10 years. She believes that the earlier students are exposed to the “interconnectedness” of the world’s cultures and societies, the better off their worldview will be.

“[The students] are very much fired up,” Pierce said, “to learn more about other countries, about other cultures and heritages.”

During her speech at the parade’s closing ceremonies on the Martin Luther King Commons, NIU Latino Resource Center Director Dr. Emily Prieto said, “This is really exciting. I’ve never seen so many young kids on this campus before. And you have so much wonderful energy.”

Prieto was followed by several other speakers, including DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen. All the speeches were intended to educate and inspire the young students, who looked on attentively.

Brooks Elementary School Principal Shahran Spears was among the speakers who stood at the podium to impress an important message to the students, while the world’s flags waved behind her.

“Good, better, best,” Spears said, “I will never let it rest, until my good gets better, and my better becomes my best.”

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