Student Life

Culture Day at Leonia High School

On Thursday, May 23rd, Leonia High School celebrated Culture Day with a revamped schedule, piles of cultural foods, and activities throughout the afternoon. Hosted by the Multicultural Club with help from the Culinary Academy, Culture Day was a fun experience for everyone.

This year, an array of cultural delicacies were available in the gym during both lunch periods. Students in the Leonia Academy of Hospitality and Culinary Arts (LAHCA) worked hard throughout the day to heat up each dish and supply the tables with a steady stream of food. “A select group of students are in the kitchen all day heating and cooling everything and making sure nothing gets spoiled,” explained LAHCA student Christie Sugianam ’24, “and then when everything’s ready we bring the food and utensils down and distribute everything, we also wash all the dishes.” When asked about the most challenging part of Culture Day, Christie said it was, “The food coming in to the kitchens because it’s very overwhelming” 

In the cafeteria, local poet Steven Swank was invited to provide students with an overview of how to engage their world with words and beats. Mr. Murphy Park, the advisor of the Multicultural Club and point person for the day’s events, wanted to bring Mr. Swank to the school to help provide an opportunity for the school community and the wider Leonia community to interact.

In the little theater, students from Leonia High school volunteered to take part in a talent show to showcase parts of their culture to the school. The acts consisted of singing, dancing, mini plays, and more. This helps the students have a broader knowledge and appreciation of different art forms from different cultures around the world. 

Lastly, in the music room, veterans presented their stories and described their experiences serving this country. The Veteran’s talk has been a pivotal part of this day since its inception in 2001 and reminds students of the importance of Memorial Day.When asked why it is important 

for veterans to address students on culture day History supervisor Mr. Cullen, who orchestrates the talks every year, writes, “Too often, students address difficult questions as a classroom exercise. The humanity of the issue, the physical sensations are absent. This changes when one has the opportunity to hear veterans who served in the military. Watching these  men and women allows young people to ‘meet’ the emotional and physical impact of war. The study of history is a story of people. Some are funny, others pedestrian. On occasion, they can be dull. It matters not. For these people have earned the right to tell their tale in whatever form they choose. And our students must accept that.” 

Mr. Cullen went on to say, “We who live under the protections they fought and bled for owe a debt of gratitude. A few minutes of active listening is a small price to pay for the privileges enjoyed. The opportunity to see these quiet heroes, well worth an afternoon in May.”

When asked about why culture day is so important, Multicultural club advisor, Mr. Murphy-Park states, “I think our school and our community is unique and we have true diversity as we have students from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds in this building and Leonia and Edgewater as a whole. It’s important we celebrate that.”

Mr Cullen also adds, “The greatest lesson from the democratic experience lies in the phrase, E Pluribus Unum. For our strength as a city upon a hill comes from the fact that to be an American one needs only assent. You do not have to be born here, there are no religious or ethnic requirements, one is free to hold personal opinions. All that is required is an agreement to uphold the principles of the Constitution. Do that and you are in. Cultural differences can obscure this reality, to fall back into a ‘we’ vs. ‘them’ mentality. But a few hours of face painting, national flags, student performances, and food, lots of food, illustrates a basic reality that we share far more than we think. President Kennedy was on the mark when he said that all of us breathe the same air, cherish our children’s future, and face a similar mortality. There are few things more beautiful than a culture day. For here is created a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know others.”

Culture Day has evolved over the last two decades to include a wide array of multicultural offerings. Originally dubbed “We Are All Americans Day,” the last day of school before Memorial Day Weekend is dedicated to celebrating both our shared experiences and what makes us unique. This beloved Leonia High School tradition always provides an interesting way for students to engage with each other’s cultural heritage.