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TWIN FALLS — As a long line formed during lunchtime Thursday, Elsa Tekle used a ladle to serve a spicy stew called zigni.

The 19-year-old Canyon Ridge High School student is from Eritrea and arrived in Twin Falls two years ago.

She wore a traditional blue and gold dress with an intricate pattern, and a gold headpiece rested on her forehead.

Tekle is among at least 30 students who helped organize Canyon Ridge’s “International Week.” The event is held every year to celebrate diversity at the school.

It’s a chance for people to “know your country more,” Tekle said.

International Week is designed to include all students at Canyon Ridge, teacher Kathy Dabestani said. “It really brings the students together.”

Canyon Ridge is home to the Twin Falls School District’s Newcomer Center for high school refugee students.

There are about 120 students who are English language learners. And one-fifth of the student body speaks a language other than English at home, with 23 languages represented.

On Thursday, a savory aroma filled a hallway at Canyon Ridge. A line of students and employees waiting to get food stretched past the main office and nearly to the gymnasium.

Students were representing a handful of countries, including Nepal, Mexico, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Eritrea.

Students representing Mexico served refried beans and Spanish rice, and Nepalese students offered injera, a spongy flatbread.

Nadia Khwaja, 17 — who was wearing a red dress and matching necklace — was serving a traditional rice dish from her home country of Afghanistan. She arrived in Twin Falls about a year ago.

Iman Khidr, 19, said international day is a chance to “show people how your culture looks like and how your food looks like.”

Khidr — who came to Twin Falls 18 months ago — was wearing a full-length purple dress with silver beading and a matching headscarf.

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In addition to the lunch Thursday, other International Week events included a talent show Tuesday night and open microphone session Friday, where students performed songs and dances.

Abdelgadir Mohamed, 17, said the soccer tournament — which is a popular part of International Week — is postponed to next week due to snow.

As she stood near four refugee students — all of whom have been in the U.S. for one to two years — Dabestani said they work incredibly hard at school.

“Their English is good compared with when they came,” she said.

When students come from a different learning and schooling system, it can be a hard adjustment, Dabestani said.

Canyon Ridge uses a co-teaching model to help students who are learning English. Teachers from a core subject area such as math are paired with an ESL teacher to instruct students.


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