Forum for student expression since 1977

The Patriot Press

Forum for student expression since 1977

The Patriot Press

Forum for student expression since 1977

The Patriot Press


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AAPI Month: Liberty celebrates Asian culture

Among the sea of sandwiches and French fries are intricate bento boxes, colorful curries, and aromatic noodles in metal containers. Pairs of chopsticks dive into a variety of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Filipino food as friends celebrate something that brings them all together – their Asian American culture. 

This is the lunchroom experience for many Asian American students at Liberty. And this month, many of these students are celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander month. 

First recognized in 1992, Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) month – celebrated every May – raises awareness for the unique contributions of Asian Americans and their cultural heritage in the United States. 

Celebrating AAPI month is about accepting and appreciating all cultures; not only learning more about my own, but learning more about my other friends who also celebrate,” freshman Jewel Malit, a Filipino American, said.

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Currently 26.7% of Liberty’s student body is Asian American or Pacific Islander, and many cite Liberty as a welcoming community for people of all cultural backgrounds. 

“It’s important for schools to recognize AAPI month, especially since we live in such a diverse area with a large Asian community,” senior Nimra Sajeel said. “We need to make sure we are creating a welcoming environment, and I think Liberty does a really good job with all of our culture clubs.”

Sajeel, a Pakistani American, is the co-founder of one of these many culture clubs. She started Liberty’s South Asian Student Association in her junior year to create a space for Patriots to celebrate South Asian culture. 

“I felt there wasn’t much representation of the South Asian community within Liberty at the time,” Sajeel said. “As someone growing up in this area, my peers and I definitely developed some internal racism towards South Asian culture. I wanted to make sure that South Asian students could have a place to connect to their backgrounds.” 

Similarly, juniors Makai La Madrid and Hansen Fan developed Asian Culture Club in order to highlight and celebrate Asian cultures at Liberty. 

“Our club isn’t only to recognize a standard of Asian culture, but it’s to create a new culture and community at Liberty – one that includes people from all ethnic backgrounds, bringing them together to appreciate this shared culture,” Madrid said. 

Yet, despite fostering this cultural connection, Madrid admits that he struggled with balancing his American life with his Asian roots.

“Definitely not being 100% fluent in Tagalog made me feel not ‘Asian enough’ in the past. But I learned that it’s not about being ‘Asian enough’; it’s really just about being who you are,” Madrid said. “Not necessarily assimilating but learning that you’re made up of everything that you’ve grown up with.”

Madrid wasn’t the only one that faced this experience. Some, like sophomore Charlotte Soliven, feel a struggle to connect to their Asian culture because they don’t speak the languages associated with their culture. 

“Sometimes, even among other Asian Americans, I feel less cultured because I don’t speak the language,” Soliven said. I do feel like, as an Asian American, I feel more American than I feel Asian.”

Malit also resonates with this idea of feeling not “Asian” enough. 

“There are definitely times where people who are more involved in their culture or people who are more native in my native language make me feel less Asian than other Asians in my community,” Malit said. 

However, rather than making them feel distant from their culture, some Asian Americans, like sophomore Keegan Lindblom, feel that language is something that brings them closer to their culture. 

 “Something that does make me feel connected is that my grandma was trying to teach me Korean, and even if I’m not learning that much, it’s still nice to feel connected to my roots that way,” Lindblom said. 

Despite disconnects from their traditional Asian heritage, Soliven notes that Asian Americans have formed a culture of their own with unique shared values and experiences that stem from their immigrant families.

“There’s this mentality that we have to work hard,” Soliven said. “A lot of our parents or grandparents are really hard-working. They had to do a lot of work to build a foundation in this country, so there’s a lot of pressure on us to make that worth it.”

Malit agrees. 

“I’m very lucky to be born into a culture where we value community,” Malit said. “Even if it’s a stranger who’s Filipino, you’re practically best friends with them. I think that’s a great part about my culture: the community.”

On top of shared values, many Liberty students cite their culture’s cuisine as something that ties them to their heritage. 

“I like eating dosa,” junior Rachel Kollarmalil said. “In preschool and kindergarten, I would come home at lunchtime and then my mom would make me a fresh batch of dosa and sambar or chutney, and it was always very comforting. It was a core memory of mine eating that.”

“A comfort food for me is rasam and rice,” junior Aditi Marehalli said.”In Sanskrit, the word ‘rasa’ means essence. Rasam is a soup, but we mix it with rice. It’s just good comfort food and we eat it warm.” 

Yet, Asian Americans also share the experience of their meals being seen as “weird” since they didn’t fit traditionally Western lunches. 

“I kind of got side-eyed or people were confused when they would see my dishes,” Malit said. “It felt like I was different from everyone else. It felt isolating.” 

Though many Asian Americans felt this isolation in elementary or middle school, Liberty’s Asian American community’s ability to proudly express their culture has done wonders at breaking down stigmas around cultural differences. 

“The Asian Americans at Liberty are very out and proud about it and that’s wonderful,” Soliven said. 


About the Contributors
Akash Krishna
Akash Krishna, Feature Editor
Akash Krishna is a junior at Liberty High School and a Feature Co-Editor for the Patriot Press. When he’s not at robotics, he’s usually talking about robotics or walking his dog. In his free time, he likes to run, complete the mini-crossword in an embarrassingly long time, eat noodles, and think about airplanes.  
Lily Phillips
Lily Phillips, Staff Writer
Lily Phillips is a sophomore at Liberty High School and a staff writer for the Patriot Press. In her free time, she enjoys running, crocheting and cooking. 
Rei Gilbert
Rei Gilbert, Staff Writer
Rei Gilbert is a sophomore at Liberty High School and a staff writer at the Patriot Press. A robotics addict, Rei likes to work with the machines in the metal shop. They also like to bike, listen to audiobooks, and cook in their free time.