Celebrating Heritage at Senior Receptions

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//PICTURED ABOVE: On April 7, seniors were honored at the first annual Asian and Pacific Islander heritage senior reception in the Hicks meeting room.

At the close of every school year, departing seniors of color celebrate their diverse heritages at the Cultural Heritage Senior Receptions. With participation from Hockaday faculty, students, parents and alumnae, there were three different receptions for students of different backgrounds.

Throughout the last few months of school, Hockaday honored seniors of Black and African, Latin and Hispanic or Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. Each reception included a short address by each senior, a keynote speaker, food and an alumnae speaker.

Although Hockaday introduced the Black and African Heritage Reception 14 years ago and the Latin and Hispanic Heritage Reception two years ago, this year marks the first Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Reception. The receptions are a massive undertaking and take involvement from the whole community that plans them because the receptions not only celebrate the heritages of departing seniors, but also inspires underclassmen and anyone who attends them.

Tresa Wilson, Director of Inclusion and Community, believes that the receptions are an important part of inspiring others to celebrate their individuality.

“I hope the younger girls who attend leave feeling a sense of belonging and affirmation by being present in the space with such a critical mass,” Wilson said. “I want them to be inspired by the achievements as well as hear the wisdom in the challenges of the keynote speaker and the seniors.”

In every reception, the seniors give their remarks in a short address where they often thank the different people and aspects of their life’s that have shaped them and give inspiration to younger audience members.

Meghna Jain, a senior who participated in the Asian and Pacific Islander reception, outlined her short address and its importance to her.

“I talked to first my parents and just thank them for everything they’ve done, and then I talked to my siblings, and it was about since I’ve been at Hockaday since kindergarten and what Hockaday meant to me and the community,” Jain said.

Many seniors additionally highlighted how diversity and culture are emphasized at Hockaday and in the community, noting that students and faculty try to make everyone of different backgrounds feel included.

Senior Clarissa Fuentes celebrated her heritage in the Latin and Hispanic reception and stressed her appreciation for the inclusivity at Hockaday.

“The fact that we have a strong community here and Hockaday does a really good job at making sure everyone is included and this is just another step that they take to make sure [inclusion] works,” Fuentes said.

In addition to the senior remarks, each reception includes a keynote speaker who is an alum of Hockaday. Nikky Phinyawatana ‘96, creator and owner of the Asian Mint Restaurants and EnjoyMint, Dr. Nancy Bernardino ‘97, principal and co-founder of the Solar Preparatory School for Girls and co-author of the all-girls STEAM school proposal for Dallas ISD public schools, and Valencia Yarbrough ‘77, independent and public school educator, all spoke at the different receptions, leaving the audience with an inspiring message.

The receptions occur annually, and the Hockaday community invites anyone interested to attend.

“Lastly, for those who have never attended a senior heritage reception, I would like to share with them that this is a way to support students’ identity development and help schools become more inclusive,” Wilson said.

Story by Erin Parolisi

Photo by Sahasra Chigurupati

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