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Success, Changes for Second Annual Cultural Day

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Eight percent of Groton’s student body is international, and the vibrant cultures of the fourteen different countries from which they come converged when Groton held its second annual Cultural Day on the last Saturday of January.

 

The idea for Cultural Day formed when Director of Student Activities Timothy LeRoy, Diversity and Inclusion Leader Sravani Sen-Das, and Chinese teacher Shannon Jin came together to discuss how to expand Chinese New Year celebrations to include the whole community. They decided to allocate a Saturday evening to celebrating all of the unique cultures represented at Groton. “I had always wanted to see how we can further our goals of being inclusive, and celebrate and familiarize ourselves with the different backgrounds and cultural identities in the school,” said Ms. Sen-Das.

    

At the school’s first Cultural Day last year, tables for each country packed the Forum. Activities ranged from dance exhibitions to crepe stations. “I learned to do Chinese calligraphy and tasted Middle Eastern food. It was so cool to learn about what everyone’s cultures are here, and what an inclusive community we have,” said Julia Kendall ‘19.

 

Mr. LeRoy was surprised by how well the event turned out. Not all student activities are a hit, but the students who organized Cultural Day ensured that each table was stacked with food and games. Mr. LeRoy said, “…with so many cultures and diverse ideas, there were many spur of the moment decisions. We chose to host a limbo contest on the spot and it was one of the highlights of the night.”

 

This year, changes have been made to Cultural Day activities. With support from Mr. Maqubela, the International Community Advisory Program (ICAP), and Groton’s Diversity and Inclusion group, the budget for each table has increased to 150 dollars. Ms. Sen-Das said, “It’s amazing that this event is a joined effort of the three groups, and that we are coming together to do something good for the school.” Furthemore, Mr. LeRoy contacted outside companies to cater certain foods rather than having students prepare them, hoping that this would allow student organizers to focus on hands-on activities like games and music. Students participated in a raffle at the South Africa table, answered trivia questions at the Hong Kong table, and practiced calligraphy at the China table.

 

Sangah Lee ’18 has organized the table representing Korea for the past two years, and noted improvements in the event’s organization. Last year she found the process more rushed, and had to take more initiative in finding teachers who were willing to help. However, with catered food and more structure easing preparation this year, she could “be a lot more adventurous with what [she] wanted to share with the school.”

 

This year’s Cultural Day featured more outside performances, including a Chinese lion dance group as well as a band paying Dominican tipico music. Yet students were not left out: Neha Agarwal ‘20 presented the audience with a Bollywood dance show and even taught students some basic moves.

 

While the event ran smoothly this year, Mr. LeRoy is still trying to figure out the best setup and flow for Cultural Day. He said that there were “a lot of logistics we need to work through, which makes it more exciting and nerve-wracking.” Looking forward, Mr. LeRoy hopes to expand Cultural Day to include yet more cultures, including that of the United States. He said, “we don’t want to close any doors to the students who want to share their culture with the school.” Mr. LeRoy also wants to incorporate a wider range of opinions to the SAC’s decision-making process, and is working on school-wide surveys for all students to share their thoughts.

 

Ms. Sen-Das described the beauty of Cultural Day, saying, “it speaks to the heart, not just the head.”

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