Cultural Heritage Fair Celebrates Student Backgrounds


Oliver Bastian

DeAndre Mayaka and Abu Kalokoh present on Kenya at the fair.

BSM held its first ever Cultural Heritage Fair on Thursday, April 27th. Students, parents, teachers, and many others came together in the library to learn, share, and explore. 

The room was decorated with tables for each country and their flags, with room for attendees to browse and learn. The event was student-led and gave attendees a glimpse into the rich history and unique customs of different cultures around the world. There were 18 cultures represented including Kenya, Pakistan, Mexico, India, Hmong, Egypt, and Italy.

Most countries were represented through student-created presentations, like posters and slideshows. The different displays offered many interesting facts about the countries, and a lot of students brought food and items native to the country. Dennis Draughn, BSM’s director of Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, helped students coordinate the fair. “It was partially my idea but it was more so student led by students Sophia Sonbol and Mahum Bajwa. They were the ones who came up with, you know, wanting to do it, and I just executed in supporting them,” Draughn said. 

Students had the opportunity to share many things about their heritage. “It’s basically student ran and student led. I’m there really to support and organize, but they…have the opportunity to essentially show off their entire culture. We’ll be able to show off things like everything from fashion to music, to food to where their country is or culture. It’s in the library as the first ever annual fair so you know, we’ll see how to make it better and better each year. This Is the first year first time we’ve ever done this,” Draughn said. 

Many students, as well as parents, came out to see the diverse backgrounds in their community. The fair occurred during fifth and sixth period where students could come and visit during their lunches. All classes were also invited to come and enjoy the fair with permission from their teachers. 

Fair attendees agree it was a success. Many of the students participating in the fair were pleasantly surprised with the turn-out. BSM sophomore Deyandre Mayaka organized the Kenyan display. “I think [it went] a lot better than I imagined…I didn’t think the people were very interested in it. But it’s great to see the community actually wanting to learn more about other cultures,” Mayaka said.

All the cultures in the fair had some sort of exhibit that featured either a poster trifold or a digital slideshow. Flags of their countries were shown, and attendees all received a “passport” with spaces for stamps for each booth they visited and to write facts about the countries that they might have not known about before. The fair also helped to foster a sense of community and belonging among the diverse student body at BSM. 

Seniors Fadra Vang and Fable Vongkhaophet represent their Hmong culture at the heritage fair.

Amelia Lynch, a sophomore at BSM provided her positive insight on the fair and expressed her interest about the troubles that happened in Ireland. “I really like trying new foods, and it’s really fun to experience that. Something I learned today was that there was a conflict between the North Protestant area and the southern Catholic area. That lasted I think from like the 1960s to early 2000s,” Lynch said.

The fair provides a fun and engaging environment for people to learn about cultures at BSM. BSM senior Jackson Sando attended the fair. He especially enjoyed the food at the Filipino table. “I think you’re just teaching BSM to embrace, like, all the uniqueness that we have, like I feel like I feel like we’re usually just focused on ourselves and we don’t embrace others’ differences. So it’s cool to see all this culture,” Sando said.

Freshman Aidan Laue, another attendee, admired the country of Egypt because he got to learn about pyramids. For him, the fair opened his eyes to what cultures have been through such as their independence or civil wars. “I learned that in Egypt, it took them what they thought to be 1000s of years to build the pyramids. I would say Egypt was the coolest booth. They just had a lot of fun facts and cool things to learn about. It also kind of just like, opened the eyes of like what cultures have like been through like, their independence or like the civil wars, Laue said. 

The library smelled of many various cultural foods, with Hmong egg rolls being a particular favorite among fair-goers. “I tried almost all the food and I liked the Hmong food, the egg rolls the best. There was a lot of people there it was pretty crowded around that booth pretty much the whole time,” Laue said.

Senior Brian Kinyua’s favorite booth at the fair was Jamaica because it had good food and he learned about important people that were significant to the country. In addition to learning about Jamaica, Kinyua also appreciated the opportunity to connect with his fellow classmates and celebrate the diversity at BSM. “I enjoyed seeing students getting represented and learning about Jamaica the most because of the rich history and the icons like Bob Marley and the food was really good. The most interesting thing I learned was that the person who created Duolingo was from Guatemala which I didn’t know and I thought that was pretty cool,” Kinyua said. 

Students are already planning for future years of BSM’s Cultural Heritage Fair. Fair coordinators hope to encourage even more student participation this year, in both the amount of tables and attendees. “We want to see if we can get more student engagement so we’ll get more students to have a more diverse and populated fair with many different cultures represented. We imagined it to have more food instead of just a get together or trying to get…kinda like a party, get more music, you know, have like an actual community with good vibes,” Mayaka said.

The culture and heritage fair was a well attended event that celebrated the diversity of BSM and provided students with the opportunity to learn about different cultures and traditions. Students were able to learn about their peers’ customs, beliefs, and values, and in doing so, foster a deeper sense of empathy and understanding. This event will be a tradition every year as it promotes acceptance, respect, and appreciation for our unique backgrounds and experiences. Events like these in school communities help others to have more insight on where fellow classmates come from, and Draughn is optimistic for the new heritage and culture fairs to come.. “This is the first year we’ve ever done something like this, so we hope to make it bigger and better every year,” Draughn said.