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New Culture Fest Displays District’s Diversity

Celebration introduces people to new cultural food and activities
Photo by Kimmie Johansen
Parent Sandeep Singh wraps a turban around senior Carter Moreland’s head. Singh’s stand at culture fest showcased Indian culture as well as Sikhism. “[Showcasing culture] takes the stigma away, when people understand Indians and Sikhism people get along better,” Singh said.

When senior Alison Zou, president of the Cultural Awareness Club, was asked to help host the school’s first Culture Festival, she gladly accepted. 

“The parent group contacted me first,” Zou said. “They were like ‘Do you want to do a culture student committee to help with this festival?’ and I was like ‘Sure, I’ll do it.’”

Culture Fest, to be occurring November 5th, is an event designed to celebrate the diversity of the district. Festivities will include food, dancing, and other activities.

“The event is hosted in the cafeteria,” Zou said. “Each country is represented by a booth, each with various activities, along with cultural artifacts and educational material, and hopefully people will go to the booths and find something that they enjoy.”

The idea had been born when Nazli Guven, mother of two, moved from Turkey five years ago. Her two kids were enrolled in the ESL, or English Second Language, program at the school. Soon after, Guven became the parent representative of the ESL committee.

“That’s when I realized there were quite a lot of students with different backgrounds who are speaking English as a second language in the community,” Guven said. “So I asked Principal Gilbert, who was principal at the middle school at the time, ‘Why don’t we have an international event that’s happening within the community?’”

Guven was redirected to University Park Elementary’s yearly International Day, which was a festival held for children and their families relating to various world cultures.

“It was a lovely festival,” Guven said. “It’s a whole week of academic involvement learning about world cultures for the kids, and they end the week with the festival, where they set up the booths and countries are represented, so I thought it was a good idea to do that on a broader scale, at the district level.”

Together, Guven and Parul Hasora, another parent, planned to host the festival for the following year. However, COVID-19 struck, preventing the event from occuring. 

“The hardest part of this project was probably covid,” Guven said. “We’ve been planning this for the past three years now, and time passes and you can’t do anything.”

Despite difficulties, Harsora believes that this festival is important because it helps students see their cultural uniqueness and feel pride in themselves and their heritage.

“I think that the Park Cities is thought of as not being very diverse, and I guess that’s reflected in our numbers,” Harsora said. “But that doesn’t mean that the people here don’t want to celebrate their diversity. Above all, students will benefit from seeing their culture on display.”

Harsora says that the event could not have happened without the dedicated volunteer work of students and parents alike, who are giving their own time and money to the project.

“We are just so amazed at how much enthusiasm there is,” Harsora said. “We have so many volunteers coming out of the woodwork. So many parents have just stepped up and are giving so much of their time, and everyone is just really enthusiastic about it.”

The event was also made possible by the support given to the Culture Fest Committee by the district, who had backed the event from the beginning.

“ The district has just been behind us the whole time,” Harsora said. “Apparently they’ve been waiting for people to step up and do this, so they were really enthusiastic and helpful.”

According to Guven, we live in a global world, and students should graduate high school with a good understanding of other countries and cultures.

“Culture is richness,” Guven said. “It really gives you a lot of perspective in life.”

About the Contributor
Ellie Levy
Ellie Levy, Editorials editor
What are your favorite TV shows/movies? Community and Back To The Future What are your hobbies? Reading, TV, and French Horn What causes are you passionate about? Climate change and child labor regulation