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Promoting Cultural Exchange

By Linda Cheung

With a total minority enrollment of 69.8%, New Hyde Park Memorial is uniquely positioned to promote cultural exchange. The school’s rapidly changing demographics invite questions about how best to recognize and celebrate the diversity of the student body. Students with lived experience of their culture are best positioned to share that culture with the broader community. The continued integration of students from different cultural backgrounds within the International Culture Club (ICC) would allow students to partake in cultural events of their lived experience.

Lived experience is defined as a series of events that shape one’s understanding or knowledge that people without such experiences do not have. A Hindu student, for example, would have lived experience with giving and receiving kharchi (money packets) on holidays such as Diwali, as well as the meaning behind these exchanges. That student’s knowledge of this custom is shaped by personal experience stemming from their Hindu heritage.

“Culture is definitely something that needs to be shared,” senior Paul Wang said. “Having one’s own cultural experiences seen and appreciated is something that is unfortunately not available to many in less diverse school districts, and it is something that we best take advantage of in ours as it has the ability to stop the hate and ignorance that plagues our society before it has the ability to cause harm.”

Student organizations such as ICC aim to acknowledge cultural diversity through multicultural functions. Events such as World Language and Culture Night hosted by the World Language department and ICC’s Lunar New Year celebration intend to publicize various cultures to a broader audience.

“We decided that every month we would dedicate a certain culture to each month. We were really trying to reach out to people in our community like NHP Chinese Association. We really put a lot of effort into researching the culture,” ICC Vice President Aparna Shibu said.

Source from Leah Mathew

ICC adviser Ms. Kurian, members from the NHP Chinese Association and ICC adviser Ms. Mejia gather after NHP's Lunar New Year celebration; students participate in traditional crafts; Chinese Association members dance during the celebration.

Despite a variety of multicultural events already hosted by NHP, incorporating students with lived experience in the planning of a cultural event enables a more authentic understanding and appreciation of the culture being celebrated. Additionally, the creation of multiple committees within ICC would allow students to plan cultural events of their heritage in the future.

“I think our school in itself is a really diverse community,” ICC Co-president Sahara John said. “We have a multitude of different cultures, so by listening and incorporating ideas from each culture and each student’s background, that’s the best way to make ICC and NHP a really inclusive and diverse environment.”

Cultural diversity can also be acknowledged through an academic perspective.

“First and foremost, we are an educational institution,” student activities coordinator Ms. Vosswinkel-Blum said. “The first pathway I would say is an educational pathway, it needs to be instilled from a perspective of educating and creating open dialogue, not just through a social studies curriculum but through English and novels, and our world languages department, so multiple curricula across the board. I want to promote student leadership and student voice, NHP should be reflective of that, so it does come back to current students and what students are desiring.”

Ultimately, NHP’s changing demographics present an opportunity to promote cultural exchange. Cultural diversity is already acknowledged in several ways through multicultural events coordinated through clubs including ICC and the world language clubs. While cultural exchange has the potential to open dialogue and promote creativity, students with lived experience are most capable of representing their culture to a wider audience.


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