HWS student volunteers turned out in full force to Geneva City School District’s Third Annual Festival of Nations on Saturday, with the Asian Student Union, Campus Greens, Geneva Reads, Building Bridges, Latin American Organization, Chinese Culture Club, Hope House, Hip~NotiQs, Sankofa, Geneva Heroes, International Student Association, and the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL) all in attendance.
Celebrating through the art, food and music of the many cultures that make up the greater Geneva community, the festival saw an estimated 1,000 people walking the halls of the middle and high schools, enjoying the afternoon celebration. Interactive booths sponsored by HWS groups included Henna tattooing, calligraphy, a kung fu demonstration, face painting, arts and crafts stations and Chinese cooking. Members of Phi Sigma Kappa and Kappa Sigma delivered food on behalf of the 24 participating local restaurants and Sodexho, and HWS Buildings and Grounds staff aided in delivering water to the event.
“The increased participation by HWS students was invaluable,” says High School Assistant Principal Karen Simon. “We are so pleased to have been able to have representation from the Colleges on the planning committee. As I walked around the Festival, I could not help but notice that college students, high school students, families and communities members were intermingled enjoying themselves.”
Several HWS community members helped organize the event, including Holly Kahn from CCESL, Darline Polanco ’09 and Alejandra Molina from the Office of Intercultural Affairs, Celeste Orton’09, Johnathan Patterson ’11, Stephanie Wells ’10 and Mary Herlihy Gearan.
Members of Hope House, a cancer awareness theme house on campus, created an information booth for the event, encouraging students to make pink ribbon pins for festival-goers and to get messy with finger paints while creating cancer awareness posters. “These ‘Thumbprints for Hope’ were a fun and simple way to get young students active in the fight against cancer,” says Hope House co-manager Caroline Dosky ’12.
Emery Han ’13, who volunteered with the Chinese Culture Club, taught festival-goers how to write their names in Chinese and helped them make personalized T-shirts. Jose Gonzalez ’10, a member of Latin American Organization, volunteered at the Festival of Nations for a second year, helping students make lanyards.
“It’s nice to see such a good turnout from the Colleges,” says Gonzalez.
Lee Pitifer ’84, a former Heron basketball player and current Zumba instructor on campus, led an adrenaline-filled Zumba class with the HWS step team, Hip~NotiQs, that bolstered the energy of the festival.
Other performing and visual arts reflected the varied interests and backgrounds of community members, from local rockers El Ka Bong and the Geneva high school and middle school bands to an African drumming ensemble, a ukulele player, an Italian opera singer, and members of the MLK Choir and St. Peter’s Choir. Artwork created by middle and high school students, along with artwork created in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in January, was displayed throughout the festival.
Annie Wilsey, a high school junior, sold bracelets to raise money for earthquake relief in Haiti, an initiative spearheaded by the Multicultural Club at Geneva High School.
“Every little bit of money we raise counts,” she says. “It’s great to have so much support from the community.”
In February, high school students collected cans and bottles and set up collection jars throughout the community, including the HWS campus, to support relief efforts in Haiti. In addition, a silent auction was held in the high school library. In total, students raised $1,505, far exceeding their goal of $500 and embodying the elements of inclusive compassion at the forefront of the festival.