The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

International Week to Continue After West Program Evaluation


Niles West’s annual International Week is returning from March 4 to March 8. While there was some consideration of changing the theme of International Week to include identity along with culture, the tradition is being preserved with slight changes from last year due to scheduling conflicts.

The Student Activities department, which oversees cultural clubs and International Week at West, along with other administrators, proposed this idea.

“Initially there was some conversation about potentially expanding, highlighting, celebrating and educating beyond culture, and looking more at identity so that we were a bit more inclusive of not just the cultural clubs but being able to feature some more of those identity clubs, ” Student Activities Director Caitlin Lucci said.

However, many students disagreed with the proposed plans, some of whom voiced their concerns to school leaders.

“I really value International Week at Niles West because it’s the only time of the year where cultural clubs are able to show off parts of their culture in ways they normally can’t. When I heard that there was a possibility it was going to be changed to Identity Week, I felt like they were taking away a cultural tradition at Niles West in order to please every student, while simultaneously disregarding cultural clubs,” senior and Albanian Club president Sabrina Islamaj said. “There have been a lot of changes at Niles West this past year, but I felt very strongly that this tradition stayed.”

Other students who were vocal about the change shared similar sentiments and felt that celebrating diversity alone unites our school in its own way.

“The reason I was so passionate about it was that I felt like there wasn’t representation of what the students wanted, and there wasn’t really communication on the changes. After I found out, I talked to Lucci one-on-one and I expressed to her my thoughts on why I personally thought it was not a good idea,” senior Zunaira Ansari said. “Celebrating diversity allows for more unity because you are showing unity through diversity. They aren’t necessarily two separate concepts. I felt like the time that the school offers to celebrate where each and every student is from was being taken away from us to include components that are celebrated through other means.”

The school heard their concerns and agreed to preserve the tradition. According to Lucci, “when students advocated that it was important to preserve International Week as it’s been in the past, it’s our job to listen to student voices and that input really matters.”

When students advocated that it was important to preserve International Week as it’s been in the past, it’s our job to listen to student voices and that input really matters.”

— Caitlin Lucci

The International Relations Council, sponsored by math teacher Jasminka Jukic, works to plan the International Week schedule every year with a representative from each cultural club at West.

“We listen to the clubs, we talk to the clubs, we meet with them to see what they want to see, what they don’t want to see. It is important to teach each other and learn from each other about the different cultures so that we can understand each other, and better accept each other,” Jukic said. “All the students in the clubs are so proud to present whatever culture they are coming from that it’s great. I’ve done this for 14 years now and it’s great to see the kids included and happy with everything.”

International Week will be kicked off by a double p.m. assembly on Monday, March 4 with performances from different cultural clubs, and an international festival held that night at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. The international feast that takes place in the Student Commons during all lunch periods will be expanded to two days this year, Tuesday, March 5 and Thursday, March 7, in order to fit in every club’s cuisine.

On Wednesday, March 6, there will be cultural bingo games hosted in the student commons during all lunch periods. After school that day, a cultural roundtable will be open to students to participate in from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the student commons. The theme of the discussion is, “Stories That Shape Us.”

To close out the week, a cultural parade will be taking place from 7:45 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Friday, March 8 in the cafeteria and 1st floor. Cultural clubs also have the chance to decorate a hallway with their flags, or any other decorations representative to their culture for that week.

In order to include both identity and culture at a separate time, a full-day Cultural/Identity Anti-bias Education Summit is in the works and will be held on April 24. During this summit, students will not attend their normal classes and instead follow a new schedule. The morning will hold anti-bias, anti-racism and anti-hate sessions for all students. In the afternoon, students will have the choice of different breakout sessions hosted by different clubs at Niles West, and will be presented by both teachers and students.

“The goal is to raise awareness to issues of bias, racism or hate, how to have difficult conversations, understand other points of view and let those clubs that don’t fall under culture a chance to be heard. We listen to the community – even though the plan may look different, your opinions are in there. However, you have to keep adjusting based on feedback and work to accommodate more voices,” D219 Chief Equity Officer Dr. La Wanna Wells said. 

Further information on the new summit day will be released at a future time.

Zunaira Ansari is also a staff writer for the Niles West News. 

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