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Cultural Diversity Takes Center Stage at Island Jam

Weston Ranch High School Celebrates AAPI Heritage with Music and Dance

On May 3, the gym at Weston Ranch High School came to life with music, dance, and cultural celebration! In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and after nearly a year of planning, the Cougars held their first Island Jam event. Featuring performances from six additional high schools, students and families from as far as Patterson gathered to celebrate Pacific Islander heritage through unique cultural demonstrations.

Weston Ranch High’s Polynesian Club president Kristine Kalolai Latuhoi founded the club as a freshman in the Winter of 2020. “We started out with only 4 members, and we have grown tremendously since,” she recalled. The club now has an impressive 54 members. “I believe our club activities enhance school spirit. We invite students and staff of all backgrounds to participate in our cultural dances and practices.”

With only 2% of Weston Ranch’s population identifying as Pacific Islander, most of the club members are not of Pacific Islander descent. Despite this, Kristine felt that it was important to show her culture authentically. “We do not simplify any of our cultural dances,” she said. Club members performed dances from specific islands including the Meke from Fiji, the Tau’olunga from Tonga, and the Samoan Siva. “It is challenging, but we find a way to execute every time!”

Dancers pose at Island Jam

“Events like Island Jam show how we encourage community involvement and create welcoming spaces,” Kristine said as she recalled how audience members of all ages joined the performers in singing and dancing. “Our goal for the event was to make everyone feel safe and happy and we were definitely successful!”

When students feel seen, heard, and supported by their peers and faculty, they are more likely to thrive academically in the classroom and improve social-emotional wellbeing.
 

Kristine was thankful for the opportunity to host Island Jam during AAPI month. “Being Filipino and Tongan, I have always seen the underrepresentation of Pacific Islanders and I wanted to change that. Hosting this event and representing my culture meant a lot. My wish that it reminds other students of the importance and beauty of Pacific Islander culture.”

Click here to watch the full event!

  • Learn By Doing
  • Weston Ranch
  • equity and access