International Fest kicks off school-wide celebration of cultures and heritages

From left to right, senior Eliza Garcia and senior Isabella Weber pass out Tinga de pollo with crispy tostadas and fresh crema at the Mexico table during International Fest. “My experience was great. I loved seeing all the different groups perform and represent their culture,” Weber said. “My favorite part was hearing the experiences of the study abroad group from AFS.” Photo courtesy of Anna Hog.

Vibrant dances, festive music, and delicious ethnic foods all kicked off a fun-filled night where Oswego East students came together to celebrate one another. 

Showcasing unique cultures, celebrating amongst peers, and educating the public on the importance of cultural appreciation were all part of International Fest on Friday, February 4th, as individuals from different cultures and ethnicities came together in a display of festivities.

The MOSAIC Club (Many Outstanding Students Appreciating Individuality and Culture) organizes International Fest as a yearly event. 

Co-sponsor Dianna Palumbo said that the inspiration for International Fest began when students began to express the need for increased diversity at the school. She felt that this was an issue that needed to be addressed in the form of an event that reached out to the community.

“It began when students decided that we as a school and community did not celebrate diversity enough, so this was one of their solutions on how to reach more people in a short amount of time,” Palumbo said. “It’s important that everyone feels heard and has an avenue to share who they are and what they practice in their own families and culture.”

On a year-round basis, they help promote cultural appreciation at the school and encourage students to foster cross-cultural relationships with one another. 

Junior member Natalie Moreno said that this is her second year aiding in the preparations for International Fest. Although she and other members do not have designated roles or assignments, they all contributed in ensuring that the event was successful. 

“All the members help plan, and we all split the work evenly. We also contact the schools’ culture clubs, organize the performances, and help spread the word with fliers that are hung up around the school promoting the Fest,” Moreno said. 

Clubs such as K-pop Club, Black Student Association, and Chinese National Honor Society all participated in performances to kick start International Fest. These were in the form of a variety of dances such as point dance by the K-pop Club and step dance by BSA.  

Other activities included presentations by a number of exchange students currently attending East through its AFS program, an intercultural exchange organization where students can study abroad in various countries. They then gave information about their home countries as well as their cultural heritages. 

As a finale, ethnic foods were handed out to teachers, parents, and friends alike by numerous students and clubs representing different countries, such as India by the Indian Student Association or France by the French Club.  

But the highlight of the night was learning about what makes each culture so unique and the importance of cultural appreciation by others. 

Senior member Tyler Thavong loves connecting with a diverse group of people, noting that he has friends from all over the world in countries like Russia, Australia, and Ecuador. He believes learning and appreciating other cultures is the best way to educate yourself and form lifelong friendships. 

“I think International Fest is the perfect way to get into learning about different cultures, and I thought it would be awesome if I was a part of it and helped others learn too,” Thavong said. “I genuinely think it’s important for people to know about other things outside of their own culture as it opens an infinite amount of doors for experiences and meeting people.” 

Junior member Bethell Irra regards International Fest as an opportunity to educate, eat, and dance with other cultural groups that are not your own. She loves viewing other people’s perspectives and how they celebrate their heritages.

“Every culture has its own traditions and celebrations to be proud of, whether that be things like festive dances or ethnic foods. It helps you become more open minded while remaining mindful of others,” Irra said. 

Seeing the cultural representation and appreciation touched co-sponsor Anna Hog’s heart. She said that we as a school are lucky to have such a diverse population of students representing East at it’s finest. 

“We are super lucky because we do have such a diverse population at this school that there’s so much still to be learned,” Hog said. “I think we are just starting now to scratch the surface and I love that many of our cultural clubs were there to represent their cultures, their countries, their languages, and their food.”

Junior Ray Shao added that acceptance for others in today’s world has become an important aspect of society, not just in events like International Fest. 

“In order to accept another culture, you should first get to know more about it. It’s a trend amongst the newer generations to be more accepting and understanding of other cultures. It’s important to be open minded in this day and age,” Shao said.

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

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