Culture Shock’s Spirit Week Brings Special Events

POUGHKEEPSIE – Poughkeepsie High School’s cafeteria was filled with laughter, music and the smells of exotic dishes. Students after school flocked to taste foods some had not tried before – sweet potato hummus, Thai noodles, vegan samosas and others – while listening to jazz and dancing.

The idea of the “Taste of Culture” event, Gianna Velasco-Innello said, was to create a sense of unity.

“We got to teach people about different aspects of culture through food,” said the president of the school’s Culture Shock club.

The gathering was part of a series of events and theme days organized by the club for its Black History Month Spirit Week, which ran Feb. 20-23.

The goal of Culture Shock, faculty advisor Nashan Anderson said, is to create activities “to build the culture and climate of the building,” and to “broaden the horizons of the students to different cultures.” Poughkeepsie Middle School also has a chapter of the club.

The club organizes activities and performances throughout the year, with the spring “Poughkeepsie’s Got Talent” show annually serving as its biggest. But, the second annual Black History Month Spirit Week likewise sparked students’ enthusiasm. Junior Olivia Arnfield, Culture Shock’s vice president, said the week brought “positivity” to the school.

“Coming to school sometimes, people may not enjoy it,” she said. “We’re taking Black History Month, which is something super important, and making fun with it.”

Spirit Week this year encompassed a pair of events and each day there was a different clothing theme: clothing emblematic of a student’s culture, clothes inspired by 1990s trends, graphic t-shirts, and a “blackout day” in which students were encouraged to wear all black.

The club also created a pair of balancing bulletin boards near the school’s entrance. One paid respect to some of those who have lost their lives to police brutality, and the other highlighted high-achieving students in the school and what their future accomplishments may be.

“We didn’t want to make this month about all the negatives,” Arnfield said, “we wanted to lift up the people in our community.”

The “Taste of Culture” event drew a crowd as students flocked to try the various dishes.
While Twisted Soul donated some food, most of it was cooked by parents of club members.
“Our club is so diverse,” Anderson said. “We have the Hispanic students, the Black students, the Jamaican students, a lot of their parents donated, which was amazing. It was authentic food.”

Arnfield said “People were just coming and going and wanting food. Even when we were cleaning up, people were coming looking to see if we had extras. … We all got to come together and become educated on different cultures and different areas. I think that’s really important.”

Some of the expense of the week was offset by a club bake sale, raising roughly $250.
“Every year we’ll keep tweaking it to see what we want to change and what we want to do,” Anderson said of Spirit Week.

The high school will end Black History Month on Thursday with an assembly organized by the Multicultural Club scheduled to include a Step Team performance, monologues from the school Drama Club and a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speech contest.

Culture Shock meets each Tuesday to discuss event ideas and planning. In addition to the spring talent show, the club earlier this year organized a student survey of which teachers made the most significant impact on their high school experience. They then delivered the news to the unsuspecting teachers who were most lauded, along with gift bags of self-care items, Dunkin’ gift cards, personalized shirts, “all teacher stuff,” Anderson said.

“I want to do more things in the year where the kids and teachers feel appreciated,” Anderson said. “It definitely takes a lot, but I feel like we’re making it work.”

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