Story and photos by CHRISTIANA NIELSON
A high school cafeteria might be crammed with students eating during the lunch hour, but it usually clears out before dinnertime.
But on this particular night, the cafeteria at Rock Bridge High School teemed with students and parents eating and celebrating the culture of India.
The high school hosted India Benefit Night at 7 p.m. on April 14, an event sponsored by Rock Bridge’s Global Issues Club and Global Issues Leadership Development, a nonprofit organization.
The fundraising goal was $2,000, according to Nadege Uwase, director of nonprofit Global Issues Leadership Development. The Hindu Temple and Community Center of Mid-Missouri pledged to match donations up to $500.
At the end of the night, the amount raised was nearly $1,000, according to Kathryn Fishman-Weaver, the faculty sponsor for the Global Issues Club and math and finance teacher at Rock Bridge.
“It was all the students’ idea,” Fishman-Weaver said. “Each semester the students pick an issue.”
This semester, the issue is forced child labor, focused particularly in India. The money raised will go to Free the Children’s initiative to build a school in an impoverished village in India, the Udaipur district.
“The theme for this year is ‘stop traffic,’ ” said Kelsey Sargense, Rock Bridge senior and Global Issues Club secretary. “I think it’s a big deal to educate people about the issues and culture too.”
Punam Sethi, a biology teacher at Rock Bridge, gave a presentation to generate awareness about Indian culture.
“I’m excited because they’re supporting such a noble cause,” Sethi said. “As a teacher, parent and member of the Indian community, I should support it too.”
The evening also included an Indian drum performance by Raj Satpathy and multiple dances, as well as a video of an Indian classical dance group called MUDRA. The first live dance was presented by students Anchal and Anmol Sethi, and the second dance was performed by the Global Village Dancers from the high school.
Both Raj and Anmol are in junior high school.
Ismam Islam and A.J. Miller are Rock Bridge seniors as well as Global Village Dancers. Although they started practice around early February, they participated in the dancing because they enjoy spending time with the other students involved.
Vinita and Sanjeev Khanna attended India Benefit Night to support their daughter Reshma, a Rock Bridge junior, also a dancer in the group.
“I think it’s a nice way for families to meet and get exposure to other cultures,” Vinita Khanna said.
Her husband, Sanjeev, agreed. “Intercultural events are good to have. We learn from each other.”
All of the proceeds from the benefit will be donated to Free the Children.