One of AC’s most beloved traditions is Heritage Dinner, an event typically hosted on campus potluck-style, to celebrate and share the unique cultural backgrounds of our AC families. With this year’s global pandemic and the health and safety of our community at the forefront of our minds, we knew changes would need to be made in order to safely host the event this year. Pulling this off virtually would be a challenge, yes; but it would not be impossible.
Embracing AC’s core values to the fullest — “the importance of connections”, “mastering strategies for learning”, “minds that are curious and creative”, and “developing a resilient spirit that dares to take risks” — we decided to use this real world challenge as a learning opportunity for our students.
Enter AC Production and Design students Ella Prokupets, Mansa Brown-Tonge, Carly Freeman, Jocelyn Wynn, independent study student Chloe Fowler, and global diploma student Brynn Peters. Together, with the guidance of faculty advisor Amy Oliveri, these six students began to analyze the keystone components of the event and the logistics necessary to host it virtually.
Among the goals and objectives identified by the group were:
- The desire to make the event as inclusive as possible
- The desire to provide various levels of engagement to promote the widest accessibility
- The ability to virtually bring people together to enjoy culturally diverse food
- The ability to incorporate local and international partners
To implement these goals, the students set to work connecting with our partners in Senegal, Dubai, Mexico, China, and locally, they reached out to Headwater Food Hub to coordinate the sale of Meal Boxes to our community. These boxes, they hoped, would provide a sense of community with everyone prepping and enjoying the same meal. Driven by the desire to support and shop local during this challenging time, the students also arranged to have extra Meal Boxes donated to our School #17 Summer LEAP families. Additionally, the students curated a list of ethnically diverse restaurants to encourage participants to support local small businesses and try new cuisines from around the world. During this time, they also began building their own website, creating social media content and messaging to help promote the event, and gathering family-favorite recipes and music from our AC community.
When the day of the event finally came, we had just shy of 100 people in attendance! Through a combination of pre recorded presentations and live discussions, we were successfully (and safely!) able to come together, yet again, to break bread and broaden our understanding of the world and those in our community. This event is always such a wonderful reminder of the richness and diversity of our AC community.
We are proud to be Rochester’s most diverse school, and we are committed to continuing to build a community that fosters diversity, equity, and inclusion for all people.
00:00 – Welcome
02:01 – Intro & Land Acknowledgement
05:20 – History of Heritage Dinner
08:06 – Student Speaker #1 (Lizzie)
13:14 – Student Speaker #2 (Ziqi)
15:58 – Student Speaker #3 (Victoria)
20:03 – Faculty Speaker (Mr. Camara)
36:25 – Breakout Rooms
50:17 – Closing Remarks
50:33 – Solidarity Circle Intro
51:41 – Solidarity Circle Video
53:31 – Closing Remarks
*This year’s Heritage Dinner program was organized and produced by students in the Production & Design Class. Thank you to Mansa Brown-Tonge for hosting the evening’s event and Ms. Oliveri for her oversight and guidance.
Posted in: Centers for Impact, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Entrepreneurship, Events & Workshops, Global Engagement, Highlights, Lower School, Middle School, Upper School
For the third summer in a row, local Allendale Columbia students participated in the Summer Global Leadership Program, alongside Iraqi students from the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP). IYLEP is a four-week exchange program for promising Iraqi students to visit different U.S. cities and learn about leadership, peace building, and civic engagement. It is sponsored and funded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by World Learning. Rochester is the only host city that has American students participate in the IYLEP program for the full two weeks, allowing both American and Iraqi participants to build a strong bond and further break down stereotypes and misconceptions.
AC Program Coordinator Tony Tepedino, shares his reflections on this year’s program:
“For two weeks this summer, I was the Program Coordinator for a summer program called the Iraqi Young Leadership Exchange Program (IYLEP). This is the second year I have been in this role, and I have been very fortunate to be able to be a part of this program. IYLEP is a program that brings a group of Iraqi students to the U.S. for four weeks. The first week is in Vermont, then the next two are in one of four host cities, and then the students travel to Washington D.C. for the last week.
Iraqi teens choose to apply to be part of this program. From what the students have shared with me, it’s a highly selective process, and a spot in the program is very sought after. I wanted to share a few things that have really impressed me about these students (and families) I have worked with over the last two years.
First, as a parent, it’s difficult for me to wrap my brain around how hard it must be to send your child to another country, let alone a country that has been at the center of so much controversy, tension and, simply put, war. I really don’t know how I would react if my teenage child approached me to ask to travel to Iraq. The courage they need to have to travel from their home in Iraq, to the U.S., for four weeks is no small thing. The students arrive here with an open-mind and an accepting nature. They stay with host families for two weeks, and with that comes getting used to a new home, new people, new foods, new routines, and a language barrier (a few students shared that their primary English teacher was YouTube!). Having New York as a destination brings excitement, until they realize that Rochester, New York and New York City are two very different places and that the famous NYC from movies and television is unreachable for a quick day trip.
As our busy two weeks began, I especially enjoyed observing how quickly the U.S. and Iraqi students bonded and came together as a group. This is something we work on and teach at Allendale Columbia, but the cool part is how this happens genuinely and organically. There is a real sense of connection, love, and caring for each other that occurs during our two weeks together.
During our time together, we covered a lot of ground, through the city and beyond, to immerse ourselves in a variety of different cultural and skill building experiences:
- City of Rochester Pedal Tour
- The M.K. Gandhi Institute
- The Maplewood YMCA
- Teen Empowerment
- NCBI Workshops with Steve and Navi
- Tour of the Susan B. Anthony House
- Ganondagan State Historic Site
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with, and to get to know, the students who have been a part of this program. I applaud their bravery and their willingness to travel so many miles to learn, grow, and share their culture and perspective.
I can only speak for myself, but I know that I am forever changed by this experience, and I hope that it has left a similar mark on each of the individuals who were able to be a part of this unique program.”
Tony TepedinoSince starting at Allendale Columbia in 1994, Tony has taken on many different roles. He has coached a variety of sports, including Varsity Girls’ Basketball and Varsity Golf. He taught physical education for seven years, kindergarten for seven years, and served as the Director of Curricular Technology for five years. Tony is currently serving as a faculty member in the Center for Entrepreneurship where he teaches electives for both middle and upper school students. He is also the Faculty Professional Learning Coordinator and C0-creator of TEDxAllendaleColumbiaSchool. Recently, Tony was Co-chair of the NYSAIS Accreditation Steering Committee and is a member of the Upper School Student Success Team responsible for Student Life. During the summer, Tony also works as Program Coordinator for the Iraqi Youth Leadership Exchange Program (IYLEP). He holds a master’s degree in Education from Roberts Wesleyan College. Tony is the proud father of two children, Gabi and Trip. He enjoys hiking, reading, travel, cooking, and learning about new things.
- Apply for next year’s program! (students ages 15-17)
- Become a host family
- Learn more about the AC Center for Global Engagement
Allendale Columbia School’s Center for Global Engagement, in partnership with Rochester Global Connections, offers the Summer Global Leadership Program designed for young people in Rochester interested in learning about and engaging in global issues. Students participate in a 2-week, all-day program where they work, eat, and play with highly-selected youth who are part of the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP). Together the students receive training and engage in hands-on projects that explore leadership skills, civic education, diversity and inclusion, human rights, and peace building. Through cross-cultural collaboration, this program provides all participants with a life-changing experience to help make an impact both locally and globally.
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Global Engagement, Partnerships, The Birches, Upper School, US Birches