Spreading Cultures Across Campus


Gianna Karkafi, Guest Writer

Watching the news throughout quarantine taught me a lot about how the rest of the world, specifically the Middle East, is portrayed to everyday Americans. People assume that the entire region is simply a war zone devoid of human prosperity and happiness. In the fall of 2021, I decided that something had to break the media cycle. With my friends, I pondered the idea of starting a club centered around the Middle East, teaching San Marino students about its cultures and helping underprivileged Middle Eastern people at the same time. My friends responded with enthusiasm and excitement about learning more about this place I speak so much about, and that was sufficient motivation for me to submit a club petition.

When the club got approved, I was filled with ideas about what we could do across campus and partnering with other organizations, and the cabinet and I immediately got to work. We established that the club was not a student union, but rather a club dedicated to educating all students at SMHS about the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and its various and diverse cultures. Our goal is to change the viewpoints of the San Marino student body when it comes to the Middle East. Junior Taline Nesnas, Vice President of the club, said, “it’s really important to educate our school on different cultures,” and reflects on her own experience: “I love being able to share my own culture with others through both fun and educational meetings.” Ultimately, the club aims to fulfill a dual purpose: celebrating diversity and helping underprivileged Middle Eastern youth both in America and across the globe through our service events.

Garnering interest was no easy feat, as many students have their sights set on what clubs to join from the beginning of the year. Starting a new club always has its challenges, but we were able to overcome them by emphasizing publicity through Instagram, posters around the school, and word of mouth. Over the past several months, we have grown from a club comprised of the cabinet to having a classroom filled with members at each meeting. We are all grateful for those that choose to spend some of their lunchtimes in Mr. Condie’s classroom, learning about Middle Eastern cultures and receiving news of our upcoming events.

The club has had a ripple effect across our members on campus, as they continue to learn more about a region they had not previously known very much about. Junior member Katherine Gutierrez said that she “felt more informed on the culture” after attending a presentation on Lebanon and its current events. As we continue to plan more meetings and bring about more topics to the student body, we hope this effect continues to spread across campus, reaching as many minds as possible.

Currently, the Middle East club is holding a book drive, in which all books will be donated to the International Rescue Committee. They help Middle Eastern refugee students who do not have the resources to buy their own books. Coming up, we will be hosting more presentations on various countries in the MENA region, based on what our members suggest. Next semester, we will be implementing a tutoring program in conjunction with the Youth Exchange Program of Paper Airplanes. Each member that signs up to be a part of the program will be trained to be an English tutor, and will then be paired with an Arab student who aspires to work or study in America, and thus seeks to perfect their English in order to ensure their success.

The cabinet and I are very excited to further the impacts of the Middle East Club on the San Marino High School campus and across the student body, and I hope all students take a chance and try to learn something new by coming to our meetings.