The Coming of a Cultural Celebration


//PICTURED ABOVE: Seniors with Asian or Pacific Islanders heritages gathered in the Hicks Meeting Room to celebrate their identities. Hockaday held its first annual Asian and Pacific Islanders Heritage Senior Reception on April 7, a new tradition that will continue to honor those with Asian or Pacific Islander background.

About fifteen years ago, Hockaday had its first official African American senior reception, and last year, the first Latinx/Hispanic senior reception took place. However, this year, for the very first time, an Asian and Pacific Islander senior reception will took place on April 7. Senior receptions have historically been a time for students to reflect on their past years as members of the Hockaday community.

These particular students that are a part of marginalized cultures within the Hockaday community all come together to hear their fellow peers, teachers and an alumnae guest speak and celebrate the respective senior’s time at Hockaday. Senior Emily Ma first proposed the idea for the Asian and Pacific Islanders reception after noticing Hockaday’s lack of one. Observing the other cultural receptions that already took place, she wanted to make one for her own identity of Asian.

“Why don’t Asians have one because we are also a part of the marginalized group?’” Ma asked herself.

Ma approached Form III Dean and math teacher Jessica Chu and shared her ideas with her. “Last year Emily Ma came to me around April and May and asked me about the history of all the receptions, and she was wondering why there isn’t one for Asian American heritage,” Chu said.

Chu saw the passion that Ma had for the reception and helped her to make it into a reality. Both approached Tresa Wilson, the Director for Inclusion and Community, and suggested the idea. Wilson was enthused at this prospect and therefore, planning for the first senior Asian American reception went underway.

The reception celebrated girls from a certain heritage in Hockaday that might not always be celebrated. This year’s keynote speaker was Nikky Phinyawatana, founder of the popular restaurant Asian Mint, which allowed the seniors to hear from one of their fellow Hockadaisy’s that identifies with their culture.

“[The reception] is taking time to celebrate you as you identify culturally, so it is taking time to process you as a student with this cultural valve,” Chu said.

The senior reception put an emphasis on celebration and aims to celebrate students of a specific background. Their culture is celebrated with those that share it with them. At the reception, the students were presented with gifts of significance to their culture, allowing them to reminisce on their time at Hockaday and how Hockaday has celebrated their Asian and Pacific Islander cultures in the past.

[The reception] is taking time to celebrate you as you identify culturally, so it is taking time to process you as a student with this cultural valve.” said Chu.

“By having a celebration just for Asian students or Asian heritage students, it is so important because we get to embrace our culture equally, and we get to be recognized by our culture,” Ma said.

Therefore, the celebration not only commended students for their senior status but for their Asian and Pacific Islander identities as well. It celebrated their heritage, and for some board- ers like Ma, it celebrated their home.

Being a boarder, Ma often misses important holidays such as Chinese New Year that fall over the school year. Celebrations like this reception will help to support the heritages of students like Ma that are unable to take part in celebrations of their culture during the school year.

“There are certain parts of my culture that I miss because I am away from home,” Ma said.

These receptions add to Hockaday’s goal of promoting inclusivity of all cultures, particularly with the new establishment of the Asian and Pacific Islanders celebration.

“I think people forget how much that culture piece plays into the role of the school,” Chu said. “All those different aspects play into your day- to-day experience as a student when we want to celebrate these cultures.”

Ultimately, these celebrations help Hockaday students to embrace and honor parts of their culture together over the shared identity.

“There are so many moments that not only celebrate you as a student, but also you as an Asian or Asian American,” Chu said.

Story by Sahasra Chigurupati

Photo by Sahasra Chigurupati