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Cultural Appreciation Clubs: Celebrating Your Heritage, Educating Others, and Boosting Your College Applications
There’s no denying the importance of strong extracurricular activities these days. As college admissions become increasingly selective, a strong academic record and test scores to match often aren’t enough to get into the most selective schools any more. In fact, most selective colleges are forced to turn away many academically qualified students each year. So what sets apart those who get in? It’s hard to say exactly, but we do know what’s left after academics are considered: essays, recommendations, and extracurriculars.
Most students find that they are able to participate in extracurricular activities that reflect their existing interests and values, but what happens when you can’t find a club that reflects an important part of who you are? What if you feel that a critical part of your identify or values isn’t reflected by the existing offerings?
If you feel that your culture isn’t reflected in your activities or in your school community, you might consider creating a cultural appreciation club. In these clubs, you’ll reaffirm your own identify while sharing your unique traditions and values with others. To learn how to start a cultural appreciation club, keep reading.
What Is a Cultural Appreciation Club?
A cultural appreciation club is a club dedicated to spreading awareness, understanding, and appreciation of a particular culture, its people, diversity, and values. Often, cultural appreciation clubs also serve to support and unite members of a cultural identity while helping the community to understand common misconceptions associated with that culture.
Cultural appreciation clubs exist at many different levels, often starting at the elementary school level and continuing on through college and sometimes into adulthood through local community centers or libraries. In college in particular, cultural appreciation groups can serve an important function, uniting students who might feel disconnected from their culture as they are often living away from home for the first time.
Why Start a Cultural Appreciation Club?
The most obvious reason to start a cultural appreciation group is to get in touch with your culture and share it with others. You might learn more about your culture and get the chance to teach others how you celebrate it. Furthermore, you might also potentially practice foreign language skills, or appreciate different cultures through food, music, clothing, or movies.
Finally, many colleges have cultural appreciation groups. Getting involved now, while you’re still in high school, might situate you well to transition straight into a college club where you’ll find classmates with the same interests and appreciation.
What Type of Cultural Appreciation to Start
Usually, students are self-motivated to start a cultural appreciation group as a means of connecting with a side of their culture that they either don’t feel is represented at school or that they want to learn more about. Usually, in this model, the founder is also a member of the culture to be explored and celebrated.
Sometimes, though, especially in schools without much diversity and where a single culture may not have enough representation to warrant a club, a multicultural appreciation group might be formed to celebrate and learn about different cultures each month. In this model, the calendar is broken into different units of study and celebration, usually based around significant cultural events. For example, you may learn about and celebrate African cultures during Black History Month.
Another form of cultural appreciation group arises when a student feels that a culture has been treated unfairly or is commonly misunderstood, and hopes to educate his or herself and others about it and share in celebrating it. If you find yourself in such a position with regards to a culture that is not your own, it’s important that you proceed respectfully. First, reach out to members of that cultural community to see if they would like to be involved in guiding and forming this group. If so, follow their lead for the vision of the club.
Also keep in mind that there is a fine line between appreciating a culture and appropriating a culture. Appreciation avoids generalizations and stereotypes while learning about another culture with respect and courtesy. Appropriation often takes and uses the sacred history, traditions, or styles of another culture for aesthetic or entertainment purposes without knowledge of their significance.
How to Get Started Forming A Cultural Appreciation Group
Most schools have a formal process for starting a new school-sanctioned club. You can talk to your adviser or another mentor to get a better idea of what your school requires, but generally there will be an application process and a prescribed timeline for completing it. Usually, you will need to submit the application for a new school club during the winter or spring before it becomes an official school club. This means planning ahead for the following school year.
Another critical piece of forming a school club will be finding a faculty adviser. Ideally this will be someone with whom you’ve worked closely in the past and who also shares an appreciation for or connection with this particular culture.
You don’t have to start a school-sanctioned club, though. If you think that there is interest in your greater community, you could start a cultural appreciation club outside of school. Doing so through a community center or your local library are two possible options. Contact each to get an idea of what this would entail. Sometimes, you only need approval to use a room for meetings, and the rest will be up to you.
Gather Interested Members
Once your club is established, you’ll need to gather interested members. You can advertise your club through flyers, posters, school announcements, and social media. Get classmates talking about it so that they can share the news with others as well.
Be sure to communicate that your cultural appreciation club is open to anyone. You don’t need to be Italian or even speak Italian in order to participate in the Italian culture club. You only need to have respect and admiration for the culture, and an earnest desire to learn more about it. Make sure that your club is welcoming to people of all backgrounds.
Form a Leadership Committee
There are varying levels of formality involved in forming a club’s leadership. Sometimes, if the club is formally established through your school, you will need to hold formal nominations and elections for club officers. Check with your school to see what is required of school clubs.
Other times, if the club is formed more casually, leadership might be self-appointed by the founders at the beginning, in order to get the club moving forward. This casual leadership can always be reassessed as the club progresses, and you can always hold more formal elections later on, once the club is up and running.
What To Do in a Cultural Appreciation Club
There are many different ways in which a cultural appreciation club will function on a daily basis. Sometimes, during regular club meetings, it’s likely that you’ll spend time discussing various important aspects of the culture. Other times, you might be planning public outreach events or participating in more hands-on cultural appreciation experiences.
Your discussions might include common points from popular media or current events, ways in which your culture impacts your everyday interactions, and how others view your culture. Sometimes your discussions might be about serious topics like stereotypes or discrimination, and other times it will be more light-hearted, like reminiscing about your favorite childhood traditions or meals.
Your cultural appreciation club might also hold public events aimed at welcoming and educating the general public. These events could include sharing of arts, foods, customs, or habits that characterize a culture. You might incorporate a fundraising element to benefit a cause that’s important to your culture, or you may fundraise to help sustain your club itself.
Sometimes, your regular club meetings might include special events, like sharing and then cooking favorite recipes, bringing in cultural artifacts, or inviting guest speakers. It’s important to avoid stereotypes or generalizing a culture, so always bear in mind that members of a culture each choose their own ways of connecting with that culture. By inviting others to share those connections, you will learn more about your own culture too.
Starting a cultural appreciation club is a great way to connect with others, take initiative and show leadership, and validate an important part of your identity. In addition, educating others about different cultures is increasingly important as our society becomes more and more diverse. By sharing your culture with others, you’ll not only hold on to an important part of who you are, but you’ll also have the opportunity to teach others about why it matters.
If you’re interested in starting a cultural appreciation club, but you think you need a little more guidance along the way, or if you’re unsure if it’s the right choice for you at this stage in high school, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to finding extracurricular success in high school, all from successful college students.
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