Second Annual Heritage & Culture Week Brings Out Student Pride

It was a week spanning the globe! ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY’s second annual Heritage & Culture Week was a celebration of the rich diversity found right in our own student body, highlighting Japanese, Latin, African American, Filipino, and Samoan cultures this year. It was also an opportunity for the students to take part by sharing their heritage and personal traditions with their peers during the daily special Town Halls. From dance and music, to traditional dress and ceremonies, and even a sampling of regional cuisines – it was all covered.

The week of celebration started with guest speakers from the Japanese Cultural Center, who shared the history and contribution of Japanese immigrants in Hawaiʻi. Dr. Schaab, Secondary science teacher, demonstrated a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, which she studied and learned during her time in Japan. The activities continued at lunch, with calligraphy, bon dancing with Tokuda Sensei, and rounds of Hanafuda.

Latin cultures were highlighted with a traditional Mexican dance by Maestra Laura’s Spanish students, and a song sung in Spanish by Maestra Aiddy’s classes. Students were treated to a history of the congas and timbales by Carlos Betancourt, a professional musician from Puerto Rico, and they even got things shaking with a conga line of students.

Tying in with Black History month, Morocco White ‘28 and Khyleigh Clayton ‘28 hosted a talk story about Black and African-American heritage and culture, including the history and significance of Kwanza, and the unique styles and needs of Black hair. IPA’s Director of Human Resources, Harriet Ngethe, led a demonstration of a traditional Kenyan song and dance performed to welcome visitors to the country. For lunch, students had a taste of authentic Southern cuisine including fried catfish, hushpuppies, candied yams, and fried okra.

The week wrapped up with a “Mixed Plate” of Filipino and Samoan cultures. A special guest from Tekniqlingz, a non-profit organization that promotes Filipino cultural art forms, gave a history and impressive demonstration of the traditional Filipino tinikling dance. Melanie Erice-Cortorreal , Secondary English teacher, and Ruby Fernandez, Student Activities Coordinator, showed off their tinikling skills before students were invited up to give it a try. And IPA’s first-ever Polynesian Club, led by Siitu Pesa ‘24 and Cyhani Stevens ‘24, taught the students “mili, mili, mili, patia” and a Samoan Siva during the Town Hall.

As the organizer, Fernandez was especially moved by seeing the students’ excitement and pride in sharing their culture during Heritage & Culture Week. “We were so excited to create and showcase [all these cultures] at our second annual Heritage & Culture Week. I​​t was just nice to see the entire school engaged from beginning to end,” she shared. “I get chicken skin just to see how proud they are – there’s no words,” she said.