Diversity Coalition Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of International Festival

April 30, 2024
Isabella Paredes Mendoza '24

The Diversity Coalition club held its annual International Festival, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the event, on April 20. Through dance, music, speech and food, the Saint Michael’s community enjoyed an evening full of enthusiasm, engagement, and celebration of multiculturalism and diverse identities on our campus, continuing the club’s tradition. I have been co-president of the Diversity Coalition at Saint Michael’s  for the 2023-24 academic year and on the executive board for two years.

“Diversity Coalition is an organization that has been a part of the Saint Michael’s community for at least two decades,” Damien Wortheim said who is the international representative. “For years, Diversity Coalition has run International Fest as a love letter to the diversity present in Saint Michael’s College and in Vermont, particularly our international community and people from different heritages.”

See a photo gallery by Sophie Burt ’26

International Fest — Photos by Sophie Burt '26

After learning more about language justice through my web documentary Language POWER and working on language access plan training with Omara Rivera-Vázquez, I thought about ways we could increase language access on our own campus, and decided the Diversity Coalition was a good starting point. For this reason, we advertised the event in four of the most spoken languages on our campus: English, Spanish, Chinese and Norwegian.

Our event offered food from Morning Light (Hong Kong-style bakery), Mulu’s Kitchen (Eritrean and Ethiopian food), Casa Real (Mexican food), Harmony’s Kitchen (Afrofusion Soul food), Namaste Kitchen (Nepalese food), and Sarom’s Cafe (Vietnamese food), all local restaurants.

“These local businesses are the heart of our community, providing not just delicious food but cultural richness. So, as you savor each bite today, have gratitude for the food and amazing local businesses,” Nika Mitchell ’25 said, who is the social media and marketing representative of our club.

We also welcomed several performers. Jazbaa, the University of Vermont’s only Bollywood dance team, offered a vibrant performance to “What Jhumka,” song from the Bollywood movie Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. Rajnii Eddins, spoken word poet, emcee and teaching artist read some of his poems, captivating the audience in a powerful reading.

Stellaris, a girl dance group formed by four Saint Michael’s students, danced to Le Sserafim’s “EASY,” a K-pop song and choreography. Stellaris group members are all involved in the Diversity Coalition, which includes me, Isabella Paredes ’24, the co-president of the club, Delaney Progen ’25 the secretary, and Kaylan Conliffe ’25 and Winni Lin ’26 who are part of the club’s general body.

See a photo gallery by Isabella Paredes Mendoza ’24

International Fest — Photos by Isabella Paredes Mendoza '24

“My fellow team members from Stellaris, Isa, Kaylan, Winni and I, put in so much work, being performers and part of the club and the event. I am so proud to be a part of the team that brings me so much joy, and is doing such wonderful things, bringing cultural diversity to campus through dance.” Delaney Progen ’25 said.

Choeden Lama, Assistant Director of Center for Student Diversity, Empowerment, and Community (DEC) and our club advisor, sang to Nepali pop songs. Cameron Michael ’24, co-president of the club, closed the event with a speech about his experience at Saint Michael’s, and the importance of DEI work as his time at the school comes to a close. Brigid Christiano ’24 and Omara Rivera-Vázquez, director for the Center for Equity and Justice, led a language exchange space for those who wanted to practice their language learning, and Green Mountain Henna Designs offered henna to the community.

As I leave Saint Michael’s, I can say that having spaces like the Diversity Coalition are crucial to the development of a rich campus community that is embracing of all. Through the celebration of students and community members of different backgrounds and their cultures, we are working towards a more united and interconnected world, engaging in healthy exchange that benefits everyone.

I am extremely proud that. As Latino student leaders, Cameron and I have been representing what our people are capable of. My hope is that once we leave, Saint Michael’s continues to uplift the voices of BIPOC, first generation, LGBT, international and multicultural students.

The Diversity Coalition Executive Board members behind International Festival were Cameron Michael ’24 and Isabella Paredes ’24 (co-presidents), Tulasha Pradhan ’25 (vice-president), Delaney Progen ’25 (secretary), Nika Mitchell ’25 (social media and marketing representative), Damien Wortheim ’26 (international outreach representative), and Caitlin Pico ’25 (general body representative).

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