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June 11, 2008 > Students show pride

Students show pride

Submitted By Justine Yan

Most schools designate a date or week to celebrate the cultures represented by the student body, but the parents and staff of Mission San Jose Elementary in Fremont strive to do a bit more for their students.

Each year, the ethnic advisory committee of MSJ Elementary, People Respecting Individuality & Diversity (PRIDE), organizes a "Celebration of Families" event to display the diverse cultures represented - and not represented - by students that attend the school. Everyone is involved in the preparations. This year, student activities and research culminated in a Saturday event which brought together a variety of cultural dances, music, food, and costumes.

"Other schools have something similar, but PRIDE is very dear to me...It holds a special place," said Jagmeet Kaur, a past committee chair who was in charge of organizing the "Celebration of Families" event for about eight years. "I believe that we all want to understand each other."

During the weeks and months before the big day, sixth graders completed country projects. They wrote reports about the country's economics and culture, displayed posters they designed to illustrate what had been learned, and brought their country's food for visitors to sample. Students dressed up in their assigned country's traditional garments as well. The projects are usually a "big hit" with the visitors, she said.

Even more dazzling were the dances, each featuring students of diverse backgrounds. Musical instruments from different countries graced the stage; singers and musicians performed the native sounds of their country.

"It's so vibrant. The multipurpose room is full of parents and grandparents and family friends..." said Kaur. "They see their kids on stage performing, [and] they're so proud that they can display their own culture."

To Kaur, it is important that each student performs in the event and gains a sense of pride in their heritage while learning to appreciate the unique customs and performances that each country has to offer.

"They may not get that in the classroom, but they get that onstage, and other people get to see [it]..." she continued.

More than just a stage for students to exhibit their own cultural talents, the event also offered an opportunity for all students to learn steps to dances they are not familiar with. "So we have different people doing different things. That's the beauty of it," said Kaur.

Throughout the school year, the PRIDE committee talks to classes about cultural holidays, to supplement the curriculum. MSJ Elementary students also created a "Book of Cultures" several years ago, highlighting the school's dedication to promoting respect for individuality and diversity.

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