Bringing Culture to PPCHS: The New JSU and APIA

Marissa Levinson and Rebekah Barrera

   Families gather in the living room, smiling, laughing, and taking pride in their heritage with loved ones at home. Whether it be lighting candles or sharing large, heartfelt meals, a beaming smile can always be found on their faces. This school year, Caitlyn Babyak, Marko Barrera, and Trinity Tang bring their cultures to the students of PPCHS.

   As the founder of the Jewish Student Union, or JSU, senior Caitlyn Babyak anticipates the kick-off of her emerging club. The JSU not only welcomes Jewish students, but also encourages any other peers at Pines Charter to join. Becoming more knowledgeable about the individuals who surround you every day at school is “totally important,” as Caitlyn believes. “It really broadens your horizons and teaches you about the world around you.” Assisting Caitlyn with the club entirely, junior Lauren Castillo feels “it is important to find a community of people who not only relate to you, but also accept you.”

   Taking priority in “[keeping] Judaism alive–” as “it is a fact that the population of the Jewish community has decreased drastically–” Caitlyn looks forward to not only reinforcing the meanings of countless holidays, but also participating in traditions with peers to keep the religion flourishing. In a typical club meeting, Babyak hopes to encapsulate “the story behind” any and all holidays, grasping onto the opportunity to gather, learn, and celebrate. 

   Granted the same exact opportunity, seniors and good friends Trinity Tang and Marko Barrera are bringing the Asian Pacific Islander Association (APIA) to life–after Charter’s three years without a club dedicated to East Asians and Pacific Islanders. “In PPCHS, Asians are a minority,” Trinity voices. “It is very rare to see my culture being appreciated.” With the new school year came new possibilities, and the co-founders intend to leave a lasting mark on PPCHS with this club before heading to college.

   Putting the plan into action, however, couldn’t be done without the APIA sponsor, Mr. Ramphall. When approached with the proposal, he responded with total sympathy, remembering the days “the check box ‘Asian and Pacific Islander’ came to [his] rescue.” The idea of uniting all Asians and their allies truly resonated with Mr. Ramphall, who finds the Sanskrit expression “VasuDeva Kutumbakam” (“The world is one family”) to be a perfect description of the club’s mindset. “The formation of this club gives a chance for the under-represented from my ‘world family’ to have a forum,” he proudly expresses.

   Through discussions and fun traditions, the APIA’s co-founders and sponsor hope to preserve the beautiful culture of the Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Members of the club can expect to try new foods, share about Asian pop culture, and learn about the community’s sociopolitical issues. Ultimately, Trinity wants Charter’s AAPI family to “feel closer to [their] culture[s].” The association’s introductory meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 6, at 2:05 PM in Mr. Ramphall’s classroom.

   The Jewish Student Union and APIA are overall “safe places” for students, as both clubs open their doors to all of PPCHS. While JSU is likely meeting in person monthly, APIA’s agenda is still to be determined. Updates on upcoming events and important dates can be found on @ppchsjsu and @ppchsapia. Be sure to look out for the wider, more diverse community PPCHS is becoming!