July 17th, 2024

Food, flags and fashion; students celebrate cultural diversity

By BRENDAN MILLER on May 22, 2024.

Grade 12 student and school council member Oluwadamilola Oluwalama poses for a photo during Medicine Hat High School's cultural fair Tuesday.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER


They didn’t vote for class president or the next student council, however hundreds of Medicine Hat High School students had to make the difficult decision to vote for their favourite rice from around the world.

The rice challenge was part of the school’s annual cultural fair that celebrates the diversity of its students with colourful displays and showcases, traditional fashion, dances, music and food.

And to celebrate different foods from around the world, student organizers decided to host a blind rice cook-off to see what culture makes the best tasting rice. Students tried several different rice dishes before casting a vote.

Grade 12 student and council member Oluwadamilola Oluwalama says the idea comes from an ongoing rice feud between Nigeria and Ghana.

“So we have a stand with different countries’ rice, but we made it a blind vote,” says Oluwalama, who is a member of the culture club. “We only have numbers and you can vote for the number of rice you actually like best.”

Rice is a food staple for billions of people around the world, and methods for cooking it vary among cultures and people from different countries.

“Food brings everyone together,” says Oluwalama. “Like in my culture, we love rice. We brought jollof rice for the rice-off, it’s a little bit spicy.”

Along with the rice challenge more than 50 students representing 23 countries shared traditions from home by dressing up and creating informative displays.

Grade 12 student Addison Weir showcased her culture and told the News her mother moved to Canada from El Salvador during its 12-year civil war.

“We’re showcasing the diversity of our school,” says Weir. “Just to make people aware of how diverse our community is as a whole.

“Most likely, a lot of these people have come here because their country has struggled, like mine.”

George Davison School

Elementary school students also celebrated cultural diversity at George Davison Elementary with a special guest who joined students virtually to teach them a cultural dance.

The Diversity Day was organized by students in the cultural club who made posters, displays and food and invited their families to the gymnasium to celebrate the school’s diversity.

“It’s really just about celebrating each other,” says Brittany Leblanc, family school liaison worker. “And taking time to soak in that joy of cultural diversity.”

All students were invited to participate in the half-day event of dancing, food tasting and cultural performances.

Gurdeep Pandher, who went viral online with his videos of bhangra dancing in the winter, joined students via webcam from the North West Territories to provide a bhangra dancing lesson.

“He was so wonderful to join us and start our day off by talking about finding joy in the classroom and joy in diversity,” says Leblance. “I really think that’s the undercurrent of the whole morning.”

Grade 6 student Sedra Alhabieh says she was able to share and explain to classmates why Muslims fast during the end of Ramadan while learning about other traditions.

“It was cool seeing other people’s religions,” says Alhabieh. “I love to learn about their culture, it was fun.”

Grade 6 student Kalid Mustafa from Ethiopia says he was able to share traditional foods and customs with his friends.

“People celebrating their culture and people trying food and stuff they wear,” says Mustafa.

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