Junior Arijit Trivedi celebrates Holi, the two-day Hindu festival of colors. Trivedi is celebrating on March 29, the second day, by throwing colored powder on his friends and family. (Photo by Arikta Trivedi)

Students discuss cultural events on campus

At Country Day, students have taken the lead in spreading cultural awareness.

But more could be done. 

The LatinX Student Union, the Black Student Union, the Gay-Straight Alliance, the Food Club and the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council all play a role in celebrating cultures across campus.

Head of High School Brooke Wells appreciates cultural clubs on campus and enjoys events displayed by the student-run clubs.

“It would be fun to see celebrations of Chinese New Year, Ramadan, Passover and other global cultural events,” he said. 

In the past, the school has hosted events such as World Cultures Day, where students bring food from all over the world, present classical dance performances and events by a French, Spanish, or indigenous musical group. 

Most of the time, these performances are organized by clubs, Wells said.

In Black Student Union meetings, members discuss headlines about African-Americans, the Civil Rights Movement, Black people’s advancements in society and times in their lives when they have been discriminated against.

Junior Zola Grey, co-president of Black Student Union, joined the union in sophomore year for one reason: to make the campus aware of issues that the Black community faces around the world.

“I feel underrepresented in the student body, so the club is a safe space to talk,” Grey said.

The LatinX Student Union members play cultural games like Lotería, the Mexican version of Bingo, watch Spanish movies with English subtitles or talk about their identities and what being Hispanic means.

“There are only a few Hispanic students on campus, and being part of the club reminds me of my heritage,” said junior Vanessa Escobar, co-president of the LatinX Student Union. “I feel welcomed and not ashamed of my cultural heritage while still having a voice in my community.”

Escobar hopes to spread her culture by reviving the taco-eating contests when school is fully in person.

Some high school students believe that the school should help students be more culturally aware.

Escobar proposed a high school holiday calendar.

“Everyone would feel included and not be embarrassed about their religion or being part of a different culture,” she said.

Senior Allie Bogetich likes addressing cultural holidays during world cultures, human geography or religious studies classes.

Lee Thomsen, head of school, said an across-the-campus cultural celebration hasn’t happened before.

In the past, holidays like Chinese New Year were celebrated among middle school students, but there has never been a school-wide celebration for a specific holiday. 

Instead, events like the annual Winter Concert and Grandparents Day have adapted to be more culturally inclusive than previous years.

“Thirty years ago, the Winter Concert would have been called the Christmas Concert, and it would have been a pretty one-dimensional performance,” he said. 

“Now, when we put together a winter concert, we’re very conscious of the fact that we’re trying to include multiple faith traditions and be culturally aware as we build our celebrations. You’ll hear music, song and cross-cultural celebrations.”

The school tries to recognize significant holidays of all different faiths on social media and in the Friday email. Under the school’s policy, students receive an excused absence and the ability to make up work while celebrating cultural holidays.

“We try to make the school as flexible as possible to give students the opportunity to observe any holiday,” Thomsen said.

As an international student from Israel, senior Shelly Zalezniak shares her customs with classmates and encourages others to spread their culture around campus.

“I believe we should acknowledge these holidays because our community is so diverse, and it’s one of the special aspects I love about Country Day,” she said.

— By Sanjana Anand

Originally published in the April 13 edition of the Octagon.

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