Annual International Fest unites East students with food, music & diversity

French Club at International Fest, giving out desserts and information regarding the French culture. “If we advertised this event more and placed it in a bigger place, it would make this night even better. It could be very good for others and would show off our school’s knowledge,” junior Morgan Kobernus said. Photo by Alex Prince.

On Friday evening, January 31st, the 12th Annual International Fest was held in the school’s auditorium and commons. Organized by MOSAIC (Many Outstanding Students Appreciating Individuality and Culture), the event is a celebration of the many diverse cultures and traditions that populate the school. Featuring an array of clubs and groups that represent various parts of the world, the goal of the event is to bring together the school community and show that students can learn and even come to love things that may initially seem foreign or different.

This year’s theme was, “Sweet and Sour: Let’s Dance for the Hour!” The night began in the PAC, where several groups performed pieces reflective of different traditions and presented information regarding their cultures and origins. Colored lights and accompanying music electrified the stage as several dancers and groups captivated the audience in unique ways.

One of the performers was junior Shreenithi Katta, who performed traditional North and South Indian dances.

“I initially had a playlist of Indian choreographies I really wanted to learn so I just picked ones that looked good when done solo,” Katta said. “Before the performance, I was slightly nervous but not as much as I expected. I was set on just having fun, no matter what happened.”

Junior Shreenithi Katta poses in her traditional Indian attire following her performance at the January 31st International Fest. “Last year, I did the KPop Club performance, but that was in a group setting. This was my first time doing a dance solo in a school setting, and the last song was especially fun to dance to.” Photo courtesy of Shreenithi Katta.

A memorable moment came when a group of teenagers walked out on the stage and revealed themselves to be foreign exchange students studying in the United States. They each took turns describing the country they come from and what life is like there. Each prepared her or his own slide to showcase the beauty of the environment, culture, and food from home nations that included Argentina, France, Germany, Paraguay, and Turkey.

Junior Nyla Rayford said she felt that it was a highlight of the night.

“The best part of my experience at International Fest was the performances because I saw different dances and heard different experiences from exchange students,” Rayford said. “I think this event is important to have at our school because we get the opportunity to get to know other people’s cultures that go to the same school as us.”

Rayford also helped organize a table for her own club, Black Student Association (BSA). The table featured several underrated civil rights leaders, celebrating the start of Black History Month. Rayford said she feels that African-American appreciation is something consistently lacking in the school’s environment.

“Appreciating different cultures is important at Oswego East because we need to learn from each other,” Rayford said. “It would really help us have a better school and community.”

Of the clubs there, many hailed from the European and Asian regions of the world. In the commons, tables were set up to feature different cuisines and delicacies from across the globe. Junior Morgan Kobernus is a member of French Club, who served some delicious French desserts.

“We gave out éclairs to represent French culture and also had a poster showing our club,” Kobernus said. 

Kobernus went on to say that it remains important for students to broaden their horizons and expose themselves to different perspectives of students at the school.

“Appreciating culture is important because it shows how different some aspects of the world can be from ours,” Kobernus said. “I think we don’t always look at other cultures and parts of the world and it could benefit us to think of others sometimes.”

The Asian Student Association (ASA) and Muslim Student Association (MSA) provided free henna tattoos, offering different pictures and symbols to be drawn in beautiful gold ink on the skin. ASA also offered lessons in designing paper lanterns.

Several DJs mixed various styles of music to create an eclectic musical experience for the audience. Looking to add to the unity, a number of line dances were played in succession in an attempt to get everyone dancing together.

“Back when MOSAIC was founded, it was with the idea of celebrating cultures, but because the group was mostly made up of Hispanic and African American students we decided we would do a latin heritage show and a black history month show,” MOSAIC founder Esmeralda Foster said. “Afterwards, we began to have students approach us with questions like ‘Why isn’t there an Asian heritage show?’ … and other cultures were also brought up. This led MOSAIC to think bigger. This is what led to the first International Fest.”

“Appreciating culture is important because it shows how different some aspects of the world can be from ours. I think we don’t always look at other cultures and parts of the world and it could benefit us to think of others sometimes.”

— junior Morgan Kobernus

MOSAIC sponsor Dianna Palumbo commented on the necessity of having a program like International Fest, while also housing more outlets of exposure for marginalized groups in our school.

“I think it’s important for students to have a place to move beyond their comfort zones. I also think that students should have the opportunity to learn about other cultures,” Palumbo said.

Palumbo added that she would like to see the annual event continue to grow in size and scope.

“Many students wish they would have gone sooner and it’s a community event. I’d like for kindergarteners through seniors to come every year.”

Senior MOSAIC member Angie DeLaCruz helped organize the event and said that the ideal next step for the event is to see its reach extended throughout the community.

“Something I’d like to see happen is even though I think quite a lot of people came, I’d love to see more students that actually go to East,” DeLaCruz said. “Also getting to see those students perform something of their own culture would be fun. It’s good having tons of different cultures and not just a few.”

Next year’s festival is intended to be scheduled in the spring of 2021.

“This event is important because many people don’t really know the cultural difference between certain countries and having a program like International Fest is a great way to learn that,” Katta said.

Alex Prince is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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