Diversity Week highlights multiculturalism on campus

With National Diversity Month in full swing, TPHS held a Diversity Week from April 17 to 21.

Each day featured a different event, including a cultural dance performance and club fair, all aimed at raising awareness for diversity on campus, according to Nethra Mahendran (11), the co-president of the TPHS Multi-cultural Student Association.

“[We want to] show students on campus that this is how many cultures we have, these are the people that we represent at Torrey Pines and this is what it means to be a Falcon,” Mahendran said.

A collaboration between the TPHS ASB and TPHS MCSA, Diversity Week has been in the works since the beginning of the year, according to ASB Commissioner of Equity and Inclusion.

Muddathir Nauaz (10). The week’s first event was a presentation by anti-political linguist Dr. Ana Zentalla, a Professor Emeritus at University of California, San Diego, who advocated for confronting linguistic intolerance in the United States.

As put by Mahendran, Zentalla’s message about the oppression of different cultures was “impactful.”

“Maybe we don’t see as much from the Torrey Pines campus but once you were exposed to that [oppression] in her presentation, you start to notice little things that we can fix in our community,” Mahendran said.

On Tuesday, a group of students from the TPHS branch of the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano De Aztlǻna organization performed the Chinelos De Morelos dance in the quad. The dancers were even joined by TPHS Principal Rob Coppo, who waved a Mexican flag.

The next day featured a presentation by the TPHS MCSA during Student Connection time about the diverse cultures and languages at TPHS, accompanied by an activity where students could draw flags of countries they identify with.

“I was excited [about the flag activity] because students could recognize how much cultural diversity we have on this campus,” Greyson Rojo (11) said, after completing his own Mexican flag.

Thursday’s event featured a diversity fair in the quad at which 23 TPHS clubs promoted the groups they represent. The fair featured such clubs as the Japanese Club, Korean Club and South Asian Club. According to ASB Commissioner of Equity and Inclusion Georgia Wallerius (10), the goal of the fair was to both increase membership of the clubs and teach students about the diverse groups found on campus.

“Even if [students] don’t join the clubs, [they will be] learning about them and learning what they teach, so it’s an opportunity for clubs to get more members and students to get more educated,” Wallerius said.

For some clubs, their top priority was recruitment.

“[Our main goal] was to promote a new community on campus that wasn’t there before,” Maya Alam, the co- president of the South Asian Student Association. “Since our club is pretty small, I think that’s more important than educating people on the history. For kids to have a safe place to go was the most important thing for me and the other founding members.”

Spanish teacher Viviana Alvarado said she was “excited” about the diversity fair event.

“There are so many [clubs at TPHS] cultural diversity of all the clubs,” Alvarado said.

The week concluded with closing ceremonies on Friday and performances by a Spanish band, Tinku, in several fifth-period classrooms.

According to ASB Commissioner of Clubs Kayla Sozinho (10), ASB plans to hold Diversity Week every year, and the MCSA plans to expand such events off-campus.

“We ended up making connections with some kids at [Canyon Crest Academy] and came to partner with CCA. So one of our next steps is looking to do more school district events and programs,” MCSA co-president Isabella Tassara (11) said.

Diversity Week was only the latest development in diversity initiatives on campus. ASB’s Commissioner of Equity and Inclusion, a three-person position, is a new addition to campus leadership and the MCSA’s membership has grown this year. With these advancements, as well as future events in the works, students plan to cultivate a “warm environment for people to learn about each other’s cultures and beliefs, and to create this engaging, friendly, conversational community,” according to Tassara.

Creating this environment was the aim of Diversity Week. As Alvarado put it, events like this create an opportunity to “understand what makes us unique” and “appreciate our differences.”

“I don’t think you can really appreciate a person if you don’t know their background,” Alvarado said. “Our language, our traditions, our culture makes us who we are, so you can understand a person more if you take the time to actually get to learn more about that person.”

A conversation with an anthro-political linguist

Dr. Ana Celia Zentella is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego. She visited TPHS during Diversity Week on Apr. 17 to speak about confronting linguistic intolerance in the United States. The Falconer sat down with her later that day to talk about how TPHS can better encourage diversity.

Is Diversity Week a step in the right direction toward more linguistic equality?

“I think all of these efforts are laudable, and I see that the students who helped today are very committed and that lifts my spirits. I do think that just as Black History Month cannot be relegated to one month, these issues really have to be part of our everyday conversations. That involves more fundamental change, more systemic change. And I think that the students would have some great ideas about how to go about that.”

What can we as students do to combat linguistic intolerance?

“I asked people to scan that [link] so that they could fill out and record any incident of linguistic intolerance that they were either subjected to or experienced themselves … I’m trying to get that compiled because the hate statistics in the United States do not separate out the incidences of linguistic intolerance and violence against speakers of languages other than English.”

Anything to add?

“There are academic aspects of [my work], and there are also emotional aspects because I just lost a sister who was a bilingual Spanish-English teacher … and who at age 70, she learned Korean. She was a perfect example of reaching out and beyond. So that’s what makes me continue to go in her name.”

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