SEC highlights diversity with campus-wide events

This past semester, the Student Executive Council (SEC) has been working to highlight diverse cultural holidays. Diversity Commissioners seniors Inés Garcia and Anika Saraf have labored to create events that celebrate holidays, including Día de los Muertos and Unity Day.

García and Saraf co-host occasional events during lunch on the quad to inform students about holidays. They also use the SEC Instagram to increase inclusivity and help students celebrate their heritage. One of García and Saraf’s goals is to ensure that students feel that their culture is represented at Gunn. “Your cultural identity should not be separate from your identity as a student,” García said. “We want to make students feel as though they can have both be a part of their school life.”

SEC supervisor Lisa Hall believes that the Diversity Commissioners’ initiative to showcase various cultures is vital to establish a welcoming environment. “I think in the past we have not spent as much time as we could have focusing on all of the different cultures that are represented in our school,” she said. “It has been refreshing to work with our Diversity Commissioners, who are both really involved and excited about making sure everybody feels included and welcome at the school.”

The events planned by the diversity commissioners teach students about different cultural events through incorporating food, decorations and performances associated with the culture. “Students seem really excited about the events,” Saraf said. “I think [the events] can be good teaching moments, and they generally have really positive messages of empathy and tolerance and celebrating your identity here on campus.”

To make sure holidays are accurately portrayed, García and Saraf plan on asking their fellow students for input. “Going forward, [we want] to ensure that we’re representing that holiday or event in the best way possible and that we’re asking members of our community who know it best to help us,” García said.

On Nov. 2, a Día de los Muertos event was held on the quad during lunch, and it featured musical performances from students, pan de muerto and an altar with decorations and photos celebrating celebrities who had passed away. Senior Monserrat Roldan Cisneros helped out with the event and enjoyed seeing the campus celebrating more cultural events. “I think Gunn is starting to be more diverse in its events and starting to really listen to what the students want,” Cisneros said. “It’s definitely a start, but I believe that they can do better.”

Junior Justin Hou, a member of the Chinese Culture Club, hopes for more school sponsored events celebrating cultural traditions. “With the cultural events that Gunn does promote, [Gunn] does a great job of finding people who are enthusiastic about it,” he said. “But I feel like there are more events that can be represented.”

Assistant Principal Courtney Carlomagno is also pleased with the number of diverse events Gunn has been able to hold this semester, but she sees room for improvement. “We’ve been able to have a large variety of events,” she said. “I think what we need to improve on is getting more students involved and engaging more students from all backgrounds.”

In addition to the SEC-planned events, Gunn started an equity committee, under the leadership of Carlomagno, in the fall of 2020. The goal of the committee is to create a space where students feel free to express themselves and their areas of interest. The student equity committee had their first meeting of the year with 44 students in attendance. “We have a lot of students in the committee who are interested in finding ways to highlight people’s stories of all backgrounds, spread information, host more events and celebrations and really continue that work,” Carlomagno said.

The equity committee explores topics such as curricular review, information campaigns, shared learning experiences, celebrations and event planning. The committee is dedicated to recruiting students who want to share their opinions. “I think it’s important to make sure that all students and staff can engage and participate and to create opportunities for them to get involved,” Carlomagno said.

García and Saraf are in the process of coming up with new events. “Next semester, we also really want to branch out to some other
cultures,” Saraf said. “I was thinking of doing a Holi event so we could celebrate South Asian culture and include everyone in that experience as well.”

García is also looking into planning one of Gunn’s larger annual events, Global Cultures Week. “Global Cultures Week is an event that I’m really excited for because it’s very dynamic in its use of music, food, performances and general celebration of Gunn’s vibrant and diverse student body,” she said.