For those of you who have been born and raised in the GTA, cultural diversity has been part of your life. For people like me who were raised in small town Ontario, it was not…in fact, I was thinking this week that if they held a Celebration of Cultural Diversity at my high school, they could have held it in a classroom! I had no friends who were of a different culture, skin colour or religion and even if I counted in the entire high school, there would have been 3 students in one of those categories. It wasn’t until I got to university (and even more so once I started working at TEAM/Mentor), that I realized what a vacuum I had lived in all those years!
At the conclusion of the Culture Show concert last Thursday, Mentor high school principal Mr. Whyte noted that it was one of his “favourite nights of the year” because it involved every student of the school. All JK to Grade 8 students had the opportunity to tour the pavilions during the day where they were guided around the world by what ended up being almost 1/3 of the high school student body! The concerts included dance, vocal and instrumental performances by students from all four divisions of the school. Mr. Whyte then also pointed out that this was an event where PARENTS also play an active role; whether they are sewing costumes, coaching dances, cooking desserts, or delivering toothpick-pierced treats, they are proud of their heritage (or in the case of some students, an “inherited” one as they represent a country of which they simply have an interest).
The biggest takeaway for me (and hopefully for the hundreds of volunteers, performers, and guests) at the Culture Show is that our school is like Canada in miniature. Almost 40 countries were not simply represented but they were celebrated. The ability to celebrate everything that makes us different is what makes us the same.
Mentor College/TEAM School