Milton M. Somers Middle School recently celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. May is the nationally designated month to honor Asians and Pacific Islanders, but the students’ schedules weren’t freed up until June.
The students who participated spoke of their family roots in India, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines. A student also presented a PowerPoint on his parents’ home country of Iran. Students visited the media center to learn about the various cultures of their peers.
“Some people are not aware of different cultures,” said eighth grader Leah Kwak, whose family is from South Korea. “It’s different cultures coming together that make our country great,” Arya Forohar, an eighth grader, added.
Sixth grader Astha Patel and eighth grader Aastha Patel (they’re matching names earned a grin from their fellow presenters) talked about India while wearing chaniya choli, a traditional dress that is reserved for festivals and important events. The project taught the girls some new things. “I appreciate different things I didn’t know about before,” Aastha Patel said.
Christina Jensen, an eighth grader, shared information about Thailand. “A lot of people know about China, Japan, Korea, but Thailand — it’s there too, it exists,” Jensen said. Her display included photos of temples and examples of fabric that would be used for traditional dresses and fisherman’s pants. Evelyn Bowling’s display on Hong Kong, her mother Clara’s native country, didn’t include traditional dress. “Hong Kong was a British colony,” Clara Bowling said. “We don’t have traditional dresses.”
Evelyn Bowling visited Hong Kong about five years ago and “it was a culture shock,” she said. As she gets older, she finds herself learning more about her culture and vowed that this summer she would work on her Cantonese.
Forohar’s parents moved to the States from Iran when they were in their late teens, he said. “They taught me a lot about the culture,” he said. “I learned Farsi before English.” Some of the traditions the family shelved, others they embraced and passed along to Forohar. “Food is a big part of the culture,” he said. “I have been helping my mother cook since I was, like, three.” Forohar said there are misconceptions about people from the Middle East. “It’s what they see in the news versus what’s real. The news doesn’t reflect how the people are. They are good people. My dad tells me there are good people everywhere and bad people everywhere.”
Clara Bowling sees the benefit of students celebrating other cultures and learning from each other, breaking down stereotypes. “When you learn about other cultures, you learn respect,” she said. “When you know a person’s background, you create a better harmony.”
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,900 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
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