Ola High fair promotes cultural awareness

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

Students at Ola High School crowded into the school's gymnasium to see some of their peers sing an international tune, and dance to music native to another country.

On Friday, the school held its first Cultural Diversity Fair, designed to celebrate the various cultures that make up the school community. The noise level was high as students watched the musical performances, which were divided into four individual shows.

At one end of the gym, the school's chorus sang songs originating from France, Germany and Spain.

At the other end, individual students sang solos of international songs, and groups performed salsa, Indian, Jamaican, and African dances, to enthusiastic applause.

Fifteen-year-old freshman, Jesus Hernandez, was one of the students who performed the salsa. The fair taught him some valuable lessons about the native countries of some of his friends, he said after his first performance.

"There's a lot of cultures, and many come here to Ola High School," he said. "They can all express themselves, and their heritage, and not be afraid to do it."

The event provided an eye-opening snapshot of other cultures, he continued. "A lot of people need to see how other cultures express themselves, in dancing and singing," Hernandez said.

Sixteen-year-old sophomore, Lucero Diaz, expressed a similar sentiment.

"This program is good to show the rest of the school that we're Hispanic, and we're here," she said. "We're not imaginary, we actually have our own forms of expression and dancing. Our culture is different."

The fair helped foster international friendships, Diaz added.

"This actually helps students, because they see how we really are," she said. "They see that we're not just a different race. We're just like everybody else."

Eighteen-year-old senior, Suprina Patel, said the fair knocked down cultural barriers.

"People always ask me, ‘explain something about your culture,' and I think this is the best way to do it," she said.

The international songs and dances proved an effective learning tool for the student body, Patel said. "Reaching out to other cultures and seeing what everybody does is a good tradition," she added. "I think we should keep it up."

Pat Schernekau, the school's instructional lead teacher, attested to the focus of the event.

"One of our goals here at Ola High School is to promote cultural awareness," Schernekau said. "[This is] about introducing aspects of all the different cultures of the world that are represented here at Ola High School."

The school has a Cultural Awareness Committee which meets weekly, and the event was a way for the committee to encourage students to broaden their horizons, she said.

"This is one of the ways they [the committee members] wanted to let other people know that everybody in this school is not from Georgia, [and] everybody is not of one race," Schernekau added.

Hyacinth Muir, sponsor of the school's Cultural Awareness group, came up with the theme for the fair in September.

"I decided I wanted to do cultural awareness," she said. "Forty-five countries are represented in this school. It [the fair] is important because what we are doing is showcasing the idea that culture embraces everyone, not just black and white."