Sabor de HoLa, the Taste of Hello
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Parents of the Hoboken Dual Language School (HoLa) held a lively first Sabor de HoLa fundraiser party Tuesday night at the Elks Lodge. The new school raised a lot of money towards its goal of outfitting two more classrooms as it adds a grade next year.
For About Town's gringo readers, sabor loosely means taste or flavor. Somehow, the same word is also used to name the Croatian parliament. It's not quite warring over Kashmir or the Gaza Strip, but the Croats should play Spain in a soccer match for sole trademark rights.
And what does HoLa taste like? About Town spoke to a few satisfied parents. George Duke, a trustee who helped push for the HoLa charter two years ago, called the effort “a tremendous undertaking, but it's paying off.” Michael Kelly, whose sports medicine company East Coast sponsored the party, told us he has triplets enrolled in the school and called the bilingual learning there “an amazing experience.”
That taste theme extended into the wide variety of food offered at the party courtesy of several restaurants, including Biggie's Clam Bar, Bin 14, Charritos, the Cheese Store, the Clinton Social, City Bistro, Dino & Harry's, East LA, Harvest Cuisine, La Isla, the Little Grocery, the Madison, Mikie Squared, Teak, the Turtle Club and Zafra.
At the bar, David Liebler of Eat Drink Hoboken donated 14 cases of wine. “That's how we roll,” Liebler said.
The 14 bottles plus other booze satisfied a big crowd of over 250 guests. We saw plenty of politicians, including Councilmembers Ravi Bhalla, Beth Mason and Tim Occhipinti, plus school board members Carmelo Garcia and Peter Biancamano, Freeholder Anthony Romano, and Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, whose wife Norma Ramos is HoLa PTO vice president and helped plan the party.
We also saw notable HoLa parents and supporters, including HoLa trustee Frank “Pupie” Raia, Dana Harrison, vocalist for the family friendly rock band the Fuzzy Lemons, Zabrina Stoffel, Scott Delea, Peta Moran, and Joe Branco, who has raised money for HoLa by staging salsa dancing nights at his hotspot Room 84.
The party featured live music from a quartet called Grupo Irek, which means loosely love or prosperity. Irek had an acoustic guitarist, classical bass and bongo players and a maraca man who looked eerily like a young President Obama. All four dressed Havana style and looked very cool crooning "Guantanamera."
We spoke to some teachers, including 2nd grade instructor Priscilla Monico, who explained that HoLa's early age immersion in conversational Spanish will facilitate students achieving grammatical fluency later. According to Monico, children who learn second languages early develop enhanced cognitive functioning.
“I had children that had no Spanish ability at the beginning of the year, who now understand everything I say,” she said. “They're learning quickly.”
A lot of HoLa teachers have exotic and interesting first names. Roll these off your tongue: Nohely...Thiana...Xochilt. Wonderful phonetics there. A long way too from the 80's when every Hispanic right fielder inexplicably had a Russian name like Ivan or Vladimir.
In addition to ticket sales, the school raised money through both silent and live auctions. Some of the silent auction items included student artwork and lunches with teachers, plus a signed Zach Parise hockey stick. With all these benefit parties every kid in Hoboken has Parise's stick. Is he signing them in bulk inside the penalty box?
Michael Kelly conducted the live auction towards the end of the night and did a tremendous job engaging the crowd, coherently explaining the items and stirring bids (auctioneering is a lot harder than it looks). About Town boasts we helped by suggesting Kelly close the Elks curtains to stifle sounds coming from all the chatty cathies slurping Liebler's vino at the bar.
The big live auction prize was a seven night stay in Cabo San Lucas. The bidding stalled at $1500 when Raia raised three fingers and bellowed, “three thousand!” The other bidders were disappointed, but they and everyone else gave Raia an ovation for contributing so much money. In all the excitement HoLa parent Anthony Oland kissed Pupie on the cheek.
After the auction, HoLa co-founder Jennifer Hindman Sargent thanked the crowd. The school opened the party hoping to boost the $28,000 it had already collected towards a $150,000 goal.
“This has really been a community effort,” she said.
Hindman-Sargent also thanked the Boys & Girls Club for housing HoLa. Construction on the new classrooms there is supposed to begin in two weeks.
To close the successful night, President Obama and his Secret Service band strummed songs - the sound of HoLa - and guests danced. We saw Harrison, Moran and Oland, among others, stepping, shaking their hips and smacking a flamenco clap.
Alan Skontra was a big dork who never went anywhere. Then he started writing the About Town column for Patch, and now he's everywhere. Have a hot tip on an event in Hoboken? Send an invitation, questions and comments too, to email@example.com. And if he gets enough followers he might actually post his first tweet @ twitter.com/alanskontra.