The Student Voice Of Contra Costa College, San Pablo, Calif.

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The Student Voice Of Contra Costa College, San Pablo, Calif.

The Advocate

Middle College High School students shine at annual Culture Night event

The gathering was dubbed one of the best in years, despite significant challenges.

Contra Costa College’s quad bustled with the warmth of laughter and music the night of April 25.

The latest iteration of the college’s annual “Culture Night” was hosted by Middle College High School, a dual-enrollment academic program on CCC’s campus. The event is led by the sophomore class.

A multitude of heritage customs were present in the form of an assortment of delectable dishes, a glamorous fashion show and flags strung up across the quadrangle. Proud family members recorded their children, friends screamed cheers for one another, and every stage was met with enamoring applause. Students danced for cultures that they weren’t from as a means of support, and every individual present was able to enjoy the get-together regardless of background.

One dance in particular was the night’s Vietnamese fan dance, choreographed by sophomore Kayla Phan in gratitude for her Vietnamese descent. The four Vietnamese participants wore áo dàis, traditional Vietnamese dresses worn for Lunar New Year as a sign of respect, and maneuvered quạt tay, or hand-held fans.

“We got the idea from a TikTok,” Phan said of planning the dance. “It was really cute and it was my idea to have all the Vietnamese girls to do a fan dance. [W]e took little snippets from different cultural videos that we saw on YouTube to create our dance, and we took inspiration from it.”

Parts of her dance, reflective of flowers flowing in the wind in the grasslands of Vietnam, were inspired by her family. 

“A lot of Vietnamese people do the fan dance,” Phan said. “I took inspiration from one of my cousins, their fans are very flowy.” 

When asked about her feelings on representing Vietnamese conventions on behalf of MCHS, Phan said, “I feel amazing!”

MCHS Spanish teacher and longtime Culture Night advisor, Cheryl Woolery named the Class of 2026’s Culture Night “one of the best programs we’ve had.” 

“We had a variety of foods and it seemed like everyone participated,” Woolery said. “I was really impressed.” 

Woolery said the event helps students get to know more about each other.

“They had a chance to know one another’s cultures and in fact, we had students from different cultures participating in [other cultures],” Woolery said. “It was nice.”

“Every time I watch the students, like in a fashion show, or in a dance, it always makes me cry because, wow, they’re so proud of their cultures,” she added. “Oftentimes children don’t recognize their roots and aren’t proud of where they’re from, so it’s such a nice thing for everyone to share their culture. Such a good spirit, it’s a heartwarming event.”

Jannez Babista, ASB Sophomore President and a major organizer of the event, said, “I think it went very well, especially with all of the hiccups we got throughout the year … [a] very abrupt change in leadership, a lot of the reservations, small things getting changed last minute.” Jannez stated that she believed the benefits of Culture Night are that “it makes people bond more, whether they like it or not. It just helps people find something in common with others and really form a sense of togetherness.”

When queried on her favorite part, Babista said it was the fashion show.. 

“We all came out together, and we all bowed together,” she said. “I thought that was really nice, because all of these different people from different cultures, all of these families together from different cultures were all just kind of together. United.” 

In preparation for the event, the sophomores, consisting of about 70 people, split up into four committees: food, fashion, publicity, and decorations. The second-year students began preparing for this year’s event last September, spearheaded by the semester’s sophomore student governance, the class of 2026’s Associated Student Body.

MCHS students have to spend 20 hours planning Culture Night as a graduation requirement, each student is expected to participate evenly. If even a single hour is missed, it is expected of the student to chip in to the next year of students’ Culture Night or risk losing their diploma. However, this amount is achieved without much struggle due to the mass of work necessary to host the ethnic celebration.

The four groups organizing Culture Night were each responsible for major components of the circumstance. The food committee had to cook, cater, and serve all ethnically relevant meals at the event. The fashion committee was accountable for the customary cultural attire Fashion Show. The publicity committee managed promotion and attendance, and the decorations committee gave life to the CCC quadrangle by hanging flags and the traditional Mexican “papel picado” (colorful tissue banners).

Despite the workload, students claim that the most substantial conflicts were scheduling. 

“Just having to navigate planning such a huge event with new people and people with different work ethics,” Babista said. “Things just didn’t work out with [ASB officer] schedules and it ended up just being two of the original officers starting in the spring semester.” 

In contrast with conventional high schools, MCHS students’ schedules change each semester like a college student’s would. ASB involvement requires enrollment in the MCHS course “Leadership,” which is in high demand by students. Less than half of the first semester’s five officers were able to re-enroll in the course in the second semester, meaning that the sophomore leadership committee had to scramble to find suitable interim officers this semester. 

When asked what she believed the biggest misgiving was, Phan, who was also co-chair of the decorations committee, said, “Timing, as well as being able to meet with each other. We are very busy people, especially [certain members], so a lot of the time we just practiced without [them].”

Despite the challenges that Phan and Babista outlined, the event turned out beautifully. 

Culture Night, a love letter toward students’ homeland as a diaspora, celebrates unification, acceptance, and the rich mosaic of cultures that shape identity. And as the curtains close on this successful celebration, the spirit of cultural appreciation continues to thrive.


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