Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Inside American Culture

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Inside American Culture

Article excerpt

What happens when more than 50 elementary school children are unleashed on an empty professional football field?

They play tag, run in circles, pose for pictures and roll around on the NFL logo painted on the middle of the field.

That was the scene at MetLife Stadium Friday morning, where the students from Westwood Regional School District -- who are all enrolled in the English as a Second Language program -- were offered a one-of-a-kind tour of the facility from an alumna.

The tour was coordinated by Donna Zakar, the district's coordinator of gifted and talented and enrichment programs, who had reconnected with former student Arianna Samborgna, who now works for the New York Giants as a premium services coordinator. Samborgna, 26, was in Zakar's class as a third-grader, a little less than two decades ago.

"I'm always excited to see students, especially when they're successful and doing well," Zakar said.

Samborgna, who is from Washington Township, ran into Zakar during a Giants game last fall, and the two have been in contact since, working to put together a trip to visit the stadium with the ESL students. Most of the students -- and the approximately 40 parents who accompanied them on the trip -- had never been to a stadium as large as MetLife before.

"For some of them, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Zakar said.

The trip is the first the students have been on as an ESL group, after a planned trip last year was canceled. Spanish is most of the students' native tongue, but many also primarily speak Korean, Romanian and numerous other languages, Zakar said.

Michaela Lara, who moved to the region in 2008 from the Philippines, said the trip was her first time to a stadium, let alone one with 82,500 seats and that hosts two professional football teams. While the 12-year-old is not a fan of football -- she prefers soccer -- she has watched some games on TV with her father and brother. …

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