Although Berkeley High School is known for its culturally and linguistically diverse student population, the differences within the student body often prevent students of diverse backgrounds from interacting with each another.
In an effort to combat this issue, various student-lead clubs and organizations have taken a step towards creating an inclusive environment for all students. One of such clubs is the Language and Culture Exchange Club (LACE).
The club works towards enabling students to embrace the diversity within the school by facilitating social interaction between students of distinct backgrounds at BHS. In order to do this, the club hosts cultural and linguistic exchanges between native and non-native speakers. “Our mission is to create a welcoming, diverse, and educational space for English Language Development students and English proficient students to share languages, cultures, and experiences,” said Molly Lawrence, a Berkeley High English Language Development (ELD) teacher, and the club’s staff sponsor.
There are approximately thirty students who are a part of LACE. “LACE has not only given me the opportunity to interact with people I would otherwise not have been brave enough to approach, but it has also allowed me to develop confidence in myself by helping me improve my English-speaking skills,” said ELD student and BHS junior, Monserrat Garcia.
At these meetings, both club members and ELD students build community by reflecting on their monthly exchanges, where they celebrate and show appreciation for other cultures.
“The people in this club are extremely welcoming and are always eager to learn about your culture and language, regardless of where you are from,” said Garcia.
On October 29, the club conducted a cultural exchange, in which they carved pumpkins and decorated altars for the Mexican holiday “Dia de los Muertos”, when people celebrate and prepare meals for those who have passed away. During this exchange, several of the club’s members also shared their personal experiences with the holiday, in addition to giving a slideshow presentation about it.
“I love the fact that these events give students like myself an opportunity to practice our newly found english-speaking skills and at the same time allows us to connect with each other by celebrating and learning about each others’ cultures,” said a BHS sophomore and ELD student who prefered to remain anonymous.
However, there is a lot more to the cultural exchanges that the club has to offer. Members of the club also participate in different activities and games. “The games and activities that our club members participate in are really fun and they often push for communication so that the language exchange session can take place,” said Miles Hong, one of the club’s executive officers.
The club has managed to bridge the gap created by language said Berkeley International High School senior Jeremy Baechler. “In this manner, we hope to make the school feel a little smaller than it really is.”