Multicultural Week 2018

April 4, 2018

For Renton High School, there is no better representation of the identity of the school than Multicultural Week.

In a week-long celebration of diversity, inclusion, and cultural identity, this year’s multi-week was truly memorable. It featured three advisory day shows, two night shows, the food fair, spirit days, performances from Gansango Music and Dance, and showings of the movie “God Grew Tired of Us.”

“Multi Week is where different cultures and ethnic backgrounds come together to celebrate […] It’s a very diverse activity that requires a lot of open-mindedness, but it’s really fun, and it’s really a learning experience,” articulated Alex Ingles, a performer in Tinikling.

Each event was made possible by collective efforts from students, staff, and community members. However, two staff members had the most significant impact on the success of this year’s festivities: Ms. Keopanya and Ms. Hays.

“I got involved in Multi I’d say 10 years ago,” said Ms. Keopanya.

She described just how much responsibility it is to put on the shows, from supervising auditions and rehearsals to creating the show order and being backstage to monitor the actual show.

In short, “coordinating the show and making sure it runs smoothly,” explains Ms. Keopanya.

Ms. Hays also recounted how she became involved with Multi Week.

“My very first year teaching here, I was only part time. […] I started helping backstage during the [multi] week, and somehow that’s turned into Ms. Keopanya and I being in charge,” Ms. Hays relays.

It’s an extremely time consuming process to produce a full 90-minute show, not to mention coordinating all the other activities that go on throughout the week. However, the looks of awe on audience members’ faces, and the smiles on the performers’ faces are well worth it. Tyson Truong, who performed as part of Vietnamese Fan Dance, echoed these thoughts as well.

“Cheering and smiling from both sides of the auditorium [performers on stage and audience members] is what creates exhilarating atmosphere that we call ‘community’,” says Truong.

One indicator of just how significant Multi Week is to Renton High is the enthusiasm and willingness from students to sacrifice their precious time in order to prepare performances. On top of academics, sports, work, clubs, and personal life, many students begin preparations in October and November to choreograph, coordinate, and plan their performances. Multi Week provides unique opportunities to build confidence on stage and hone leadership skills within groups.

Sophomore Maggie Chung, who offered a perspective of someone who was not a performer, commented, “The week really showcases the capability of students when they put their mind to something.”

Both Ms. Keopanya and Ms. Hays cited the new system of performance groups signing up for rehearsal slots rather than having open rehearsal in the IPAC as a large contributor to the smooth running of the shows this year. However, on the Thursday day show, both advisers fell sick and were unable to attend. So, the responsibility of running the show backstage fell to select student leaders, aided by Ms. Neuschwander.   

“There was a lot of groups that had performers who had done it [Multi Week] before and knew the ropes, […] so the day that Ms. Keopanya and I both got sick […] the students essentially ran it themselves. We were really proud of them for being able to do that,” shared Ms. Hays.                                   

The atmosphere in the auditorium, as well as backstage as performers anxiously waited for their turns on stage, is something indescribable. Seyum Belete, who represented Ethiopia in the Fashion Show for the second year, described the uniqueness of Multi Week in comparison to other school events. He explained how often times, students are unenthusiastic about assemblies or spirit weeks.

However, “When it comes to multi, everyone is hyped and excited to see their friends representing their cultures through clothing and dance,” shared Belete.

Faith Richardson, one of the show’s emcees, had similar thoughts.

“Multi Week brings our school together because it is the one place where every single one of us feels represented,” Richardson expressed.

Ms. Keopanya and Ms. Hays described what they have personally gained from the Multi Week experience.

“I’m grateful for getting to know students in a different light and seeing their personalities bloom outside of the classroom. Other students, who might by shyer in the classroom, can actively teach other people dances,” said Ms. Keopanya.

She also explained how she enjoyed seeing the “intercultural mix” of seeing students participate in performances that they don’t naturally have an ethnic connection to.

Ms. Hays added, “What I’m most grateful for is being able to see students in what they’re really passionate about, and seeing their success in things outside of the academic world. It’s fun to watch students having so much fun and caring so much about this.”

Multicultural week is the purest demonstration of the full extent of Renton High’s diversity and the individuality of each student performer’s heritage.

Like sophomore Helen Ta described,  “It is a way to educate each other on where we come from.”

Students are exposed to traditions from all around the world and have the opportunity to expand their cultural horizons. Marnette Antiojo, who performed her final show as part of Cotillion and Tinikling expressed similar feelings.

“Multi is a way to reconnect with your roots.[…] Coming from a really diverse school, everyone gets to share and appreciate each other’s cultures. It’s really important to become aware and open minded about the cultures that are the foundation of our school,” shared Antiojo. 



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