Photo of Chin volunteer group for Crestview parent-teacher conferences

United By Food: How Crestview Parents Provided Buffets At Conferences

Conferences can be a busy and stressful time for both parents and teachers, but a collaborative effort from a group of parents at Crestview School of Inquiry helped alleviate some of those feelings in the best way possible: Food.

Historically, the school has struggled to acquire volunteers for food contributions at parent-teacher conferences, said Caryn Kelly, intercultural outreach coordinator with WDMCS Community Education. She added that in advance of last October’s conferences, Crestview Director Tamara Tjeerdsma had contacted Kelly to help organize and encourage families to bring food for a potluck.

“We talked about the opportunity to share culture through food, and the importance of introducing teachers to what their students are eating at home,” she said. “Families brought a mix of American and Burmese foods, and teachers were thrilled. They loved trying the different dishes and were very grateful that families had provided such a buffet.”

Inspired by that same enthusiasm and overall success, a few of Crestview’s Chin parents grew eager to strengthen their own relationships between home and school. Biak Thang, the bilingual family liaison at Crestview as well as at Indian Hills Junior High and Valley High School, said this group of parents wanted to support the school, but didn’t know where to begin.

“As conversations started of how, a question came out: ‘As parents can we provide meals at parent-teacher conferences by donating $1, $5, and so on,” Thang said. “And the answer was ‘Yes!'”

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Thang, along with Lily Tial — a preschool communication assistant with WDMCS Community Education — took the reigns in making these brainstorming discussions a reality.

Donations started pouring in since last November, with nearly $500 raised for this month’s conferences. Parents part of Crestview’s English Skills for Parents class worked with Tial to plan the menu and delegate tasks, Kelly said. She added that a few Spanish-speaking parents are heading meals for the school’s second day of conferences on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

But before lunchtime Friday, Feb. 7, volunteers flocked to 8355 Franklin Avenue in Clive, where they arranged tables and prepared their dishes for hungry bellies inside Crestview’s library. Traditional menu items, stacked on waist-high bookshelves, included fried rice with beans and corn, noodles, and Burmese bubble tea — which consists of coconut milk, lychee, Jell-O, and sugo. Also enjoyed were salad, pizza, fresh fruit, and delicious chocolate chip cookies.

Smiles were aplenty (with appetites fulfilled) Friday, as parents and teachers alike nibbled on their meals. And that’s the wonderful about food: It can bring us all together — no matter the reason.

Check out photos from Friday: