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News: Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

Bridging Cultures through Celebration

A group of Rick Hansen Secondary students recently launched a video project that sheds light on the impact of inclusivity and equity in their community. The new video production, 'What is Vaisakhi?', is being shared online and may become the groundwork for other schools in the Abbotsford school district to use when trying to explain cultural similarities in their school communities. 

As part of the Careers 10 course, the students' research determined that people are more likely to understand other cultures and offer mutual respect if common phrases, traditions and cultural norms were taught more readily. The group selected Vaisakhi due to their cultural connection, the school demographic, and the timing of the year.

Vaisakhi is a historical and religious festival in Sikhism, taking place on the 13th or 14th of April every year, and is celebrated by many Abbotsford students and families. The annual cultural celebration marks the beginning of the Hindu solar New year, and a festival is held to celebrate the birth of the Khalsa. Drawing on similarities with other cultural celebrations and traditions, such as Thanksgiving, the video highlights the commonalities of bringing family together and the observance of the harvest.

"By using the medium of video to share how cultural events use a common language, the students hope to reveal similarities to other cultures and allow others to see how we are connected," explains Rick Hansen Secondary teacher Jas Gill. "Their hope is this can be created into a video series, exploring other cultural traditions, for example, What is Christmas, What is Easter, What is Holi, What is Diwali, What is Ramadan, What is Lunar New Year, etc."

Gill is personally working to ensure his students of all cultures and languages do not feel shy or embarrassed of celebrating their cultural traditions with their peers and the school community. "Language, food and history are the tools we can share to highlight the similarities that exist within all cultures!" 

Gill's students have also been working in partnership with the City of Abbotsford on a pilot program (CityStudio) that challenges youth to tackle civic issues by connecting class projects to their community. City staff work with innovative student teams in addressing community challenges, providing opportunities for students to gain experiential learning in their field of study, and in return provide the youth with perspective.

In a previous CityStudio project, Language without Barriers, students tackled transportation in the city, recommending bilingual signage after determining language is a significant barrier for many citizens trying to navigate public transportation. Students provided surveys they had done in school and connected them with secondary research they had done online. The project has been widely received and has facilitated an application for a 'Remarkable Students Project' award. If awarded, they would receive $10,000 to help launch this project to a larger scale.

"We are going to work together to create a new group at our school in which we help celebrate a variety of cultures, to create awareness and voice for students from all areas," says Gill. And the ultimate goal for this group of community-building students is that their messages will be shared and the vision enlisted in other schools and even other districts. 

Watch the video: What is Vaisakhi? 

Media Contact:

Kayla Stuckart, Manager of Communications
Phone: (604) 859 – 4891 ext. 1206