As the Director of Equity and Community Engagement, I have the privilege of working with students in a variety of capacities. Whether it’s supporting students who are doing a coat drive for local migrants, getting excited about what prototypes our students are creating for the Conrad Entrepreneurship Challenge, or working with students through dialogue, our CA students are making a difference across numerous important fronts. Consistently, I’m impressed at the thoughtful care and joyful enthusiasm in which students reflect their work, and proudly share their identities with the larger community in the spirit of learning, inclusion, and community-building.
Most recently, I was lucky to be involved in the Diwali celebration hosted by our Upper School Indian Sub-Continent Affinity Group (ISAG). Diwali is a Hindu celebration, symbolizing the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.
This year at CA, ISAG celebrated by inviting Middle and Upper School students to participate in the Indian art of rangoli after school. The group of students had already begun before I arrived. One student enthusiastically asked, “Would you like to make one?” “Of course,” I answered.
I am not sure how many of you have ever had the opportunity to do rangoli art. Rangoli, which has a rich and complex cultural history, involves the creation of beautiful, intricate designs by hand or stencil. There is a very intense moment that happens right after you pull up the stencil because, of course, you don’t want to mess it up.
As we pulled up the stencils, revealing perfect designs, everyone exploded with glee! The students cheered and kindly complimented each other’s creativity. It felt so uplifting to feel included, to share in the joy of these students participating in a cultural tradition that is important to them.
The next morning as I arrived at school, I saw quite a few of the members of our ISAG students dressed in what they referred to as “traditional Indian clothing”. I could see their pride and excitement for the day. The ISAG group had invited Middle and Upper School students to join them for a Diwali lunch celebration. They were unsure how many of their peers would attend, and I could see their nerves increase as it grew closer to the time for the event.
Their concerns were unfounded. As the aroma filled the air from delicious dishes such as paneer and chicken makhani, rice, and naan, the students began to arrive by the dozens. One after the other, students and teachers joined us for lunch. The students had also set up a station for henna and had music playing. Joyful attendees oohed and aahed over the delicious food and the warm atmosphere.
When I think of a learning community, I think of this event. Students at CA were given a chance to lead, to share and celebrate one of their holidays, to joyfully include and educate their peers about an important cultural tradition, and to collaborate with classmates and adults in the community. These moments not only build many skills necessary for life, but they also build pride and self-confidence.
I know that I have many more events to experience at CA, but this one left me with such a sense of gratitude for an institution that knows that it is not just about calculus or grammar, but it is also about moments like a Diwali celebration. I am grateful that they allowed me to be a part of such a wonderful community-building event.