It was an afternoon filled with the sights and sounds of Vietnam and included enthusiastic participation from GCPS students from all grade levels as well as parents, and community business partners. Almost 800 people recently gathered at Peachtree Ridge HS to celebrate Tết Nguyên Đán (meaning “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day”)— the Vietnamese New Year.
The event, which featured food samples, cultural attire, games, and traditions, stands out as a cooperative effort of the school’s learning community and was coordinated by a new student group called Vietnamese-American Student Association (VASA).
School Resource Officer Billy Wynn, VASA’s advisor, worked with PRHS Community School Director Jennifer Fero and Hien Kamau of GCPS International Newcomers Center (INC) to identify student leaders with an interest in a cultural outreach group for Vietnamese students. The INC has organized groups to promote family engagement among international families. Discussion at a recent Vietnamese parent leadership conference planted the seeds for the new student group at Peachtree Ridge.
Victoria, a junior who leads the group, says that she and other students were motivated to coordinate a schoolwide celebration for the Vietnamese Lunar New Year after seeing the success of similar cultural outreach programs taking place at Peachtree Ridge, including Noche de Padres, sponsored by the Hispanic Organization to Promote Education (HOPE), and a Korean Parent Night.
The Feb. 11 event boasted a fashion show, drummers from the Taiwanese Association, dancers of all ages, a five-member band from Berkmar HS, and other entertainers representing several schools from across the school district.
“Many of the students were very excited and we saw this as a great opportunity to showcase Vietnamese culture and have our families gathered together,” says Victoria. “We really put a lot of hard work into organizing everything… the games, the food, and sharing our culture. There were a lot of compliments and many people were interested in learning more about the Vietnamese culture.”
Ms. Kamau, who serves as the Vietnamese Parent Outreach Specialist at the INC, points out that Vietnamese New Year is a major event celebration for the community. “Many people save up and take a once-a-year trip back to Vietnam to celebrate. However, there are many others who do not have that opportunity to return home,” she says. “What better way to promote family engagement than bringing people together to celebrate the New Year?”
According to Officer Wynn, the event raised more than $5,000. Some of those proceeds will fund VASA scholarships for college-bound seniors.
“The Vietnamese New Year Celebration at PRHS was a tremendous success due to the fact that there are amazing GCPS employees who believed in their students and inspire them not only to make a difference, but to change the world,” says Officer Wynn.