‘Unity in the Community’

Moorestown’s student-led club hosts cultural event.

CHRISTINE HARKINSON/The Sun: Moorestown High seniors Jola Da Silva (left) and Jasleen Kalsi are founders of the school club Unity in the Community.

Unity in the Community, a club at Moorestown High School founded by seniors Jasleen Kalsi and Jola Da Silva, hosted an event that focused on bringing people of different cultural backgrounds together.

Silva and Kalsi initially wanted to start their club last year, after incidents of police brutality.

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“We wanted to create a club that was a safe space for students to talk about the different racial issues that they’ve experienced here in Moorestown and just in general,” Silva said. “We also wanted to turn it into something positive so that kids could share their culture, learn about other cultures (and) celebrate cultures.”

Kalsi explained how meetings for Unity in the Community give members a platform to share who they are, and she described the passion students have in learning about one another.

“ … We usually have two people give cultural presentations and they just talk about whatever they want to from their cultures,” she said. “Overall, I think it’s been a really positive experience, because I feel like when the people are presenting, I can see that they get really excited to talk about themselves and their heritage.”

Her peers praise the continued success of the club, which is open to all grade levels.

“We’ll have people come up to us and say, ‘This is the only time that I’ve felt like I’ve been heard or I’ve been excited to do a presentation,’ so hearing that makes it very positive and happy,” Kalsi noted.

“It makes us feel really happy.”

Silva and Kalsi meet with the school Superintendent Michael Volpe once a month to discuss potential curriculum changes and have started something new for the club.

“Recently, we just started doing this world tour of mythology,” Kalsi said. “We recently talked about how we felt that that’s kind of left out. World mythology’s kind of left out in our curriculum and in literature that we read, so we just started showing these five-minute clips of different mythology from different countries around the world.”

The founders explained how they developed the club’s title.

“The country was just so divided at this time that we wanted to start this club, so we really wanted unity to be in it, and then also just the community,” Silva explained. 

“We just felt so divided with all the issues that were going on,” she added, “so we just wanted to create something that would unify us all.”

“We also wanted to create a name that wouldn’t turn off people to the club, because if we created something a little too strong, people could have raised concerns about our club and what we’re doing,” Kalsi noted.

“I think with the name Unity in the Community we kind of are emphasizing a oneness and a togetherness, which is the purpose of the name and what we wanted to achieve with the name.”

The club will host an event on June 1 at the high school that will feature presentations and food from around the world. 

“We wanted it to be kind of like a science fair exhibition, so people are going to make poster boards or trifolds and just talk about something from their culture, their religion (or) a holiday that they celebrate,” Silva said.

“We wanted people to bring in different cultural dishes that they thought people would love to enjoy,” Kalsi offered. “We felt like with having the presentations and the food, you get to learn about the culture and when you eat the food, you get to learn about the food in relation to the culture.”

Kalsi and Silva shared what they believe the club’s unity event can do for others.

“I just hope people learn more about different cultures, because when people don’t know a lot about a culture, they sometimes feed into stereotypes,” Silva said. 

“I’m excited to (present) my culture,” Kalsi added. “I’m going to be presenting about Sikhism, and there aren’t many Sikhs in our school … so I kind of feel like it’s my duty to present about Sikhism.”

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