Flags from many countries waved in the wind during brunch, as Valencia High School students learned about the cuisine of various nationalities during Culture Fest.
Chicken adobo, samosas, kimchi fried rice and jollof rice were available to try, as well as an assortment of dishes from many countries, including Colombia, Lebanon, Armenia, Peru and Mexico.
Inspired by their own cultures, Associated Student Body seniors Anjali Krishnan, 17, Elmae Valenzuela, 17, and junior Maya Yiadom, 16, spent months organizing this event to not only share their own worlds, but also bring together the diversity on campus.
“This is our second Culture Fest that we have planned. The last one was in March, and this is our first one this school year. It’s taken us months to plan, get people to donate some food and get decorations,” Krishnan said. “I grew up loving every aspect of my Indian culture, from the movies, to the food, to the dance, celebrations, festivals, everything. We all have that same drive and love for our culture, so we decided to host this event so we can share that love and cultivate that love among other students as well.”
Valenzuela, who is Filipina, not only cited her culture as a source of inspiration, but also reflected on past school events that encouraged her to not only embrace her own identity, but others, as well.
“I got inspired because when I was in Bridgeport Elementary, we also did a similar ‘Around the World’ thing and all the parents would bring food, and that sparked my idea to bring it to Valencia.”
The process to create this event, according to Valenzuela, was fairly easy, as students and their families donated.
“Everyone wanted to donate and share their culture. It’s fairly easy to have something like this around our campus because there’s a lot of diversity,” Valenzuela said.
In order to garner attraction, ASB spread the word through social media, as well as giving announcements on the intercom.
“After a few months, we found the right niche of people who are willing to share their culture and donate things out of the generosity of their hearts. We posted things on Instagram and made loudspeaker announcements just to get that group together,” Krishnan said. “We also hosted many informational meetings, where we briefed everyone about their roles to make it easier on them. All they had to do was bring the food and we took care of the rest.”
In addition, many, if not all, of the dishes present were homemade. Students who brought food could feel inspired by traditional recipes, while inspiring other students to seek out new dishes, according to Yiadom, who is half Korean and half Ghanaian.
“Students are having a chance to not only connect with their school, but connecting with their families and having traditions being passed on,” Yiadom said. “There’s a possibility that students can also learn about new food and support small businesses in Santa Clarita that do sell these foods. [Other students] might learn how to cook — it’s really cool to see that being brought in. Everything is made with love.”
Yiadom recognizes the role that other extracurriculars play for the student body, and wanted to ensure a great turnout in other areas, such as clubs.
“I think what really inspired me to help out with this event is the fact that we have so many diverse groups of people on this campus. I feel like a lot of the times they can get outshined by football or other varsity sports,” Yiadom said. “I think it’s just really great because this event has probably one of the best turnouts that we have had, which is amazing for brunch.”
In addition to the food students and clubs brought, they also curated a playlist to reflect their favorite cultural songs, such as Kali Uchis’ “Telepatía.”
“I think that it’s really important that everyone has a chance to showcase who they are as people, and I think that a great way of doing that is through food and music,” Yiadom said. “We have a Spotify playlist that we had all the clubs and people add on to. All the music that we’re playing today is student choice — their favorite songs from their culture.”
While many clubs participated, this was also a platform to teach the student body about the various clubs they could be a part of.
“We want to advertise clubs so everyone can immerse themselves in just the rich cultural diversity that we have on campus,” Krishnan said. “I bet half of our student body hasn’t tried half the foods here. They try mostly mainstream foods. I feel like it’s a great way for us, from different cultures, to show off foods that may not get enough recognition — that are truly underrated and amazing.”
It is evident that Culture Fest is not just an event to share great food from around the world, but a chance for students to dive deeper, build a community and explore various elements of their own cultures.
“All of us are in our own clubs that we support, and most of these tables are a part of those culture clubs,” Valenzuela said. “It’s really exciting to see everyone widening into one universe now. It’s also an opportunity for people who haven’t fully embraced their culture or like people who have multiple identities. It’s a beginning step.”