On April 12, 2018, George Washington High School hosted the first annual GW Culture Fest. The event was the end result of several school-wide projects, all celebrating George’s diverse student population. Students and community members came together to share food, fashion, and traditions from their countries of origin.
Over 60 countries of origin are represented in the 2017-2018 GW student body. This diversity is one of George’s greatest assets, and this evening highlighted the value of our students bringing their individual histories and communities together under one roof. With Culture Fest, we formalized the exchange that already happens in George’s halls and classrooms every day.
Culture Fest began with one project intended to visually highlight George’s diversity, made possible by a generous grant provided by the Cultural Affairs Department of Denver Arts and Venues, directed by Tariana Navas-Nieves. A team of organizers, headed by Michelle Jensen and Kate Greeley, planned to print flags for every country of origin represented in the GW student body. In order to give the flags a personal touch, GW students created designs using the original flag as an overlay for collections of words and phrases chosen to represent the country’s history and culture. Twenty of the most common countries of origin are complete, and the final products arrived just in time for Ms. Greeley to present them at Culture Fest.
The first printing of flags also included Denver Public Schools’ new Native American flag, created by students from George alongside students from other schools in the district. These students designed the flag to represent themselves and their peers, and we are excited to display their finished product and recognize our many Native students.
Many thanks to Alexandra Mamatas, Kristi Paukstis, and Darrick Silversmith for their work with their students to create the designs for the flags, and for their help organizing during the night of the event.
As the flag project grew in scope and ambition, Ms. Jensen and her student planning committee, spearheaded by Eric Sherman, combined it with beginning plans for an event celebrating GW’s different cultures. After months of gathering volunteers and making arrangements, the planning committee scheduled Culture Fest for April 12.
During the event, students, families, and community members hosted booths celebrating their countries and regions of origin. Each booth offered samples of delicious foods, desserts, and beverages, many of which came from the kitchens of GW families. Guests purchased tickets from a booth hosted by the International Baccalaureate Black Organization and traded the tickets for samples to snack on over the course of the night. Booth hosts also prepared informational posters, and displayed art and fashion from their communities.
In addition to the booths, Culture Fest also featured performances from GW students and Colorado dance groups. Maria Suarez served as a liaison between GW and Ballet Folklorico Sol De Mi Tierra, a Mexican performance group who shared traditional dress and dances from the different States of Mexico. Joining the group was Janeth Millan, Miss Teen Colorado Latina, who opened the evening with GW students and Sol De Mi Tierra performers in a collaborative fashion show.
George also hosted the Seven Falls Indian Dancers, a family dance troupe whose performance ended in a fifty-person round dance with the Culture Fest audience. GW student band Black Odyssey performed, and several school clubs choreographed dances inspired by traditional styles. Vince Bowman hosted the evening, introducing each performer and chatting with the crowd during breaks.
This event could not have taken place without generous help from dozens of students, faculty members, and community members throughout the months of planning and resulting three hours of hectic fun. Our gratitude goes out to all the people who hosted booths, performed, spread the word, and joined the audience.
If you would like to help us create an even better Culture Fest for next spring, please fill out the survey linked below. We can’t wait to hear your thoughts.Take the Exit Survey Here