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WCHS celebrates student diversity with second annual Culture Day

WCHS celebrates student diversity with second annual Culture Day

The portraits of Westerville Central High School students whose memoirs are part of a new book are now home.

WCHS students and staff viewed the paintings of familiar faces in the building, a display that marked the culmination of a project where Warhawks born in countries all across the world composed memoirs of their experiences as an immigrant high school student.

The pop-up exhibit was among the highlights during WCHS’ second annual Culture Day on Thursday. 

As part of the event, students from more than 30 countries created displays that give their peers a glimpse of what they are most proud of from their country, covering topics such as religion, culture, foods, famous places to visit, geography and languages.

“I want students to see the diversity that Central has,” said Amy Tankovich, an English Learners teacher who helped organize the event. “It’s a celebration that (multiple) cultures can exist within one community.”

Trifolds packed with details about countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Bhutan/Nepal, Singapore and Senegal lined tables in the main gym. Throughout the day, students visited the space with their teachers as part of an assignment to learn more about their peers’ native countries. 

In addition to the displays, students organized cultural games and provided snacks, desserts and candy from their home countries. Julio Beltran Tapia, a staff member at the Center for Latin American Studies, introduced students and staff to various instruments that produce the unique sounds in capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian art form that combines elements of body movement, martial arts, music, history and culture.

English Learner students at Westerville North and Westerville South high schools also visited Thursday’s festivities for their monthly Community Activity Club gathering. Sponsored by Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS), the club offers students new to America an opportunity to connect and experience what it means to be a teenager in the U.S. Afterwards, club members from all three high schools had lunch together.

Leaders from Otterbein University and Ohio State University also visited the Culture Fair, a connection created by the memoir project Spanish teacher Pablo Chignolli launched with English Learners teacher Deb Jones as a way to recognize the cultural diversity in the school. 

Chignolli wanted to feature portraits of the students in the book, similar to the style of George Bush’s “Out of Many, One” book which featured stories of men and women who have immigrated to the United States in pursuit of the American Dream alongside painted portraits of them. Otterbein art students volunteered to paint the portraits for the book. They completed their paintings in December and Otterbein University leaders featured the artworks in a special exhibit in the recently renovated Taylor Lounge.

Students participating in the project come to WCHS from all across the world: Ukraine, Rwanda, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil.  

The book, “The Ones Among Us: Memoirs of Culturally Diverse Students in America,” which is funded through a Westerville Education Foundation grant, is currently on sale on Amazon. 

  • Westerville Central High School
  • Westerville City Schools

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