OH International Club Aims to Increase Cultural Awareness

For+Valentine%27s+Day%2C+the+Olympic+Heights+International+Club+made+cards+with+messages+written+in+multiple+languages+and+hung+them+throughout+the+school.
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OH International Club Aims to Increase Cultural Awareness

For Valentine's Day, the Olympic Heights International Club made cards with messages written in multiple languages and hung them throughout the school.

For Valentine's Day, the Olympic Heights International Club made cards with messages written in multiple languages and hung them throughout the school.

For Valentine's Day, the Olympic Heights International Club made cards with messages written in multiple languages and hung them throughout the school.

For Valentine's Day, the Olympic Heights International Club made cards with messages written in multiple languages and hung them throughout the school.

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One of the many new clubs launched this school year by students at Olympic Heights High School is the International Club. With OH Spanish teacher Mrs. Margaret Sclafani as its sponsor, the club is making strides to raise students’ awareness about the cultures of the world in creative, fun, and interactive ways.

Meer Hossain, a junior at OH who is the co-president of the club and helped found it, says that she wanted to start the club as a way of connecting with and bringing people of various backgrounds together. “We can learn about and explore different cultures and also find similarities and differences between each other’s lifestyles,” Hossain explains.

Sclafani states that the club’s goal is “to expose students to new customs and to share our own experiences with other cultures.”

According to Public School Review, OH’s minority enrollment is 52 percent of the student body, with the majority of that being Hispanic. However, students also come from a multitude of other ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. Sclafani hopes that the International Club can “bring more awareness to other students because we have so many different cultures represented at this school, so I think it’s important that everyone should be knowledgeable.”

The OH International Club held a party in February celebrating the Carnival Season.

At a typical club meeting, the students discuss a tradition or holiday and compare how it is celebrated all over the world. For instance, last December they held a holiday party where they explored various Christmas and winter holiday traditions and tried foods from different nationalities. Their most recent meeting in February looked at how Carnival is celebrated all over the world, and students participated by decorating Carnival masks of their own. For their upcoming meeting on March 12, the club is planning an interactive scavenger hunt.

Hossain asserts, “One of my favorite activities that we did so far has to be the Valentine’s Day cards. We wrote messages in multiple languages on paper hearts and hung them up throughout the school. It was a cool and fun way to learn about a new language and also make someone happy.”

Natalie Souza is a junior who decided to join the club this year “as a way to get to know people with the same interests.” She says that she enjoyed making the Valentine’s cards and participating in the Carnival party because “it was kind of a balance between involvement and school; we could learn new things while still having free time for enjoying ourselves and working together.”

Souza also shares, “The thing I like about being in the club is that we all learn together. As a group, we have a broadening background, and we are able to share this appreciation of diversity by connecting to the cultural side of each individual club member.”

The club aims to broaden their horizons even more in coming years. Besides wanting to involve a greater proportion of the student body and having more members of different backgrounds, they also hope to expand to public events outside of school. Hossain states, “In the future, I hope to get more people both in the community and at school involved in activities or events. Things we are looking to do include an international fair or a decorating competition.” Sclafani also says that she would “love to do things outside of school to really show students other cultures and have hands-on cultural experiences.”

OH AICE Spanish teacher Ms. Jennifer Chacon, who is the first to teach AICE level Spanish to a class of purely non-native speakers at OH, believes the International Club is important “because it opens up students’ minds to different cultures, which means they will have a better comprehension of their own culture. It might make them feel like they want to travel more and expand their knowledge about the world. That will always be positive for their future careers.”

Chacon is certainly correct in her assessment that future careers can be impacted by students’ understanding of foreign languages and cultures. Bilingual and multilingual candidates are always more attractive to employers since they are able to communicate and interact with a wider range of people. As globalization increases and our world grows ever more interconnected, those who are able to look beyond and maintain an open mind will be at a clear advantage.

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