Asian student association of Township High School District 214 hosts first-ever cultural showcase: ‘They really want to express themselves’

Cultural cuisine, performances and a keynote address from a brand founder helped mark the inaugural Township High School District 214 Asian Student Association showcase event Friday at Buffalo Grove High School in Buffalo Grove.

The student-led program began in the BGHS cafeteria with complimentary Asian cuisine. A surprise appearance of a red lion dance helped to usher the audience into the school’s auditorium for a program that included remarks, performance art and keynote speaker Andrew Hong, founder of the streetwear brand We Each Belong.

Scheduled was also a video introduction by state Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview.

Jeanne Shin-Cooper, BGHS social science teacher and sponsor of the Asian Student Association, estimated that 250 people attended.

“It’s very exciting,” Shin-Cooper said. “The students created first the Korean Club and then it morphed into the Asian Student Association to be more encompassing of the AAPI [Asian American Pacific Islander] community that we have at Buffalo Grove High School.”

She said the growth of the organization was born out of the pandemic and students seeing a rise in hate crimes against Asians in America. Students wanted to do something about that, Shin-Cooper said, explaining that the kids approached her to be the ASA sponsor.

“The club has evolved and it’s come to point of the showcase where they really want to express themselves, show celebration and love of their culture, share it with the rest of the community and I think it’s truly a beautiful thing,” Shin-Cooper said

Co-Interim Superintendent Lazaro Lopez attended. He was pleased with the turnout, saying “it really acknowledges and validates our students that come from Asian countries.:

He called the showcase a celebration of Asian food, culture, and “everything that sort of celebrates them and who they are.”

There are more nearly 12,000 students in the six-school, Arlington Heights-based Township High School District 214. About 8% of the student body is Asian and less than 1% Pacific Islander, according to state data on the district.

Erin Suk, 15, a freshman at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, performed on stage with Soribeat in a sangmo pankut program combining Korean dance and music.

“I think it’s really honorable just to be able to do this kind of thing and be part of this … spreading awareness to other people, which is pretty cool,” Suk said. “It’s really amazing how music can bring everyone together.”

Janani Venkat Ramanan, 17, a Wheeling High School junior, performed a traditional Indian dance solo.

“It’s important for me to be here because I want to share Indian classical dance,” Ramanan said. “And I want to show it to audiences that may have not seen it before.”

After the complimentary buffet, which featured fare such as noodles and sushi, the lion dancers completed their performance from the cafeteria to the auditorium stage.

The audience applause was enthusiastic.

In his keynote address, Andrew Hong offered words of encouragement meant to also educate.

“I believe in our oneness,” Hong told the audience.

Greg and Stephanie Lowe attended with their children Amina Lowe, 10, and Felix Lowe, 7.

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