- Federal Way Public Schools
Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, a time our district and schools recognize the contributions and celebrate the many diverse and vibrant cultures of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AA and NHPIs).
According to the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs there are people from approximately 42 different nations across Asia and the Pacific Islands in our state and greater Federal Way community.
These cultures are part of the fabric that make our district one of the most diverse in the state — a strength we embrace and weave into the culture of our schools and the education of our scholars.
In FWPS, we want our schools to be a mirror of our community — a place where every student has a sense of belonging and can see and be themselves.
To that end, we can’t wait to share how our schools are recognizing Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander heritage with assemblies, art projects, musical performances and more. We want to share these experiences with the entire District, so be sure to email photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
View additional recognitions in the FWPS Cultural & Religious Calendar here: https://www.fwps.org/culturalcalendar
Scholars and staff share their heroes and stories during AANHPI Heritage Month
In celebration of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, Meredith Hill Elementary and Lake Grove Elementary schools looked to their own community and found scholar and staff leaders to share their AA and NHPI cultural heroes and stories with their school.
At Meredith Hill, scholars Lorelei, Camila, and Sara each shared their AA and NHPI heroes, who embody FWPS’ belief that diversity is a strength fortified and enriched by the contributions of our diverse community. They shared cultural heroes such as Dangun, the legendary founder of Korea, and Seattle’s very own Japanese-born baseball phenom, Ichiro Suzuki. Lorelei chose classmate, Camila, as her hero because she is “very smart, her best friend... and the most amazing person in the world.”
The scholars presented a short summary about why they made their choice and recounted their heroes’ unique accomplishments, qualities, and the significant impact these heroes have had.
Meredith Hill’s morning assembly event was an educational opportunity for everyone to learn and embrace the wonderful diversity that makes up the vibrant school community.
Mr. Bartolome, Ms. Leang, and Ms. Harada, in front of the Lake Grove library exhibit with items they brought in for display, created by Ms. Young and Ms. Mobley.
Over at Lake Grove Elementary School, staff came together to create a magnificent, collaborative, cultural library display full of individual mementoes, books, wardrobes, and more that expresses AA and NHPI heritage. Cultural clothing and shoes, examples of different countries’ transportation vehicles, and other details provide a panorama insight of the vast AA and NHPI cultures for students as they walk by. Some of the items were given to the staff member from their family members – Ms. Harada remarked that “it's a chance for us to share parts of us with our [scholars] that we don't normally get to,” and it opens a door for our scholars to connect with the staff and AA and NHPI cultures. Mr. Bartolome commented that bringing the items in for the scholars to enjoy also gives him the opportunity to have conversations about his culture with students in the hallways and classroom. Additionally, it creates a sense of belonging because celebrating AA and NHPI cultures “reminds us of home too, … it reminds us [of our childhood].”
Ms. Leang added, “it’s about being proud of who you are. I want to teach my two boys to be proud of who [they] are.” Whether that’s through the cultural clothes she wears, teaching her scholars to count in Thai, or any of the other small ways to include different cultural details into everyday life, she wants people to feel included and to create a safe environment to allow everyone to be proud of their heritage.
FWPS recognizes the diversity throughout our school communities and is proud of the opportunities that Meredith Hill and Lake Grove organized for their schools to celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Illahee scholars share words, song, and dance during their assembly
Illahee scholars dedicated their time and energy to celebrate and honor Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in their morning assembly through cultural readings, traditional dancing, and historical lessons.
The event was emceed by scholar leaders who guided students through a program that reflected on Pacific Islander culture and history. They started the event off with a short history of Pacific Islanders and Oceania, the geographic region that includes Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. It is followed up with a beautiful reading of the poem “Ars Pasifika”, read by scholar Kendall.
The event continued to honor Hawaiian culture, which was represented in dance to the song, “Aloha ‘Oe”. This was the first of many vibrant dances, led by a team of student dancers at Illahee. There isn’t an official Pacific Islander club at Illahee, but scholars are given the opportunity to collectively collaborate. As a result, these scholars volunteered their time to practice and rehearse together, not only because they are passionate about dancing, but to also celebrate their culture with the school. 8th-grade scholar, Alofa, is proud of her heritage and shared her thoughts about why she danced, saying, “I didn’t want to sit and be a spectator at the assembly especially when given the opportunity to express myself, show people that I am proud from where I am from, represent my heritage, and share my culture through dancing with my school.”
Scholar Tone, pictured above at the podium, also shared the Samoan poem “O a’u o le tagata folau”, translated in English as “I belong to the sea” during the assembly.
The student group continued to share and celebrate Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander cultures through spoken word and dance. The scholar-led performances were captivating and a great representation of the rich diversity and cultures in our community. The assembly concluded with what originally was supposed to be two solo dances by Alofa, became a joyful interactive collaboration with other student leaders supporting her. As Alofa danced, scholars proceeded to place leis on her in symbolic token of friendship, celebration, and honor.
We are FWPS proud of our Illahee scholars and staff that came together and created a memorable and impactful assembly for the whole school. FWPS is a district that shows pride in having scholars excited to share their heritage and embracing diversity.
Federal Way High School PI and AA clubs celebrate their first-ever AANHPI program
“Today we really just wanted to have this event to highlight Asian American and Pacific Islander [heritage]… and to really appreciate the different cultures within Asian American and Pacific Islander culture because [each of them] have a lot of different regions.”
“I feel like when Pacific Islander (PI) students see us up here showcasing our culture, celebrating our culture, it makes them feel heard, like it makes them feel that somebody cares about them, [and] it makes them want to keep going.”
Those were just two quotes from PI club members Kiana and Robert, both graduating seniors, sharing their passion for their heritage and for the opportunity to be a contributing partner for the Federal Way High School’s (FWHS) inaugural AANHPI Heritage Month program.
Together with the Asian American (AA) club, the two clubs created a shared agenda with multiple segments. They presented their respective heritage, distinctive traditions and history, and current-day successes and challenges of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The presentation also offered attending scholars an opportunity to engage in an activity or icebreaker that involves their culture. The PI club connected with volunteer scholars to give their best "Fa'aumu" translated in English "Cheehoo" – a common cheer in the Samoan culture. The AA club had the "Dalgona challenge" – a cookie-cutting activity where the contestants use a needle and try to break an imprinted pattern out of a traditional Korean dalgona cookie. The events elicited participation from the scholars with the opportunity to explore cultural activities with their classmates.
Each club had unique highlights during their time to offer variety. For the PI club, they emphasized the many types of PI-owned small businesses found in Federal Way, from local clothing to authentic cultural cuisine, and a group of students performed the song “Tu I Luga” – “Arise” in English – a well-known Samoan song that rose in popularity as a memorial after the 2019 measles outbreak that occurred in the region. The AA club came forward and presented a traditional Vietnamese fan dance – one choreographed by AA club president An. An grew up performing the dance, and An and Ivy shared about their dance routine that “it’s a highlight of the program for us… and we just like the way the fans, and the way [us dancers] move together.”
The groups were exuberant in representing their cultures, giving FWHS scholars perspective and a deeper understanding of AA and PI cultures. Working with school staff, the two clubs were able to share the program a full two days during every class period. All social history classes and scholars were able to attend and participate.
This AANHPI Heritage Month, FWPS schools across all grades held events that supported all scholars, provided AA and NHPI students the ability to share out who they are, and for fellow scholars to encourage and support them. FWPS is proud of all our scholars and staff who incorporate the wider scholar community to create empowering, learning activities.