For so many reasons, I am continually impressed by CA students. Our students love being at school. Our students are not afraid to think critically, to challenge the process. They are great athletes and musicians. Exceptional innovators and bold, creative thinkers. Risk takers and global changemakers. The list goes on and on.
Perhaps most exciting to me, though—and one of the reasons that I enjoy coming to work every day—is the rich diversity of our students, their pride in their respective identities and backgrounds, and their stunning generosity and willingness to share of themselves, their time, their stories, histories, and perspectives with our community.
And, of course, on the flip side—I’m proud of a community that is warmly receptive and committed to the crucial work of equity. Our students astound me in their openness to learning from one another, to thinking outside of their individual lived experiences, to broadening their perspectives, to finding connection with each other across their many differences.
Both sides, of course, are so critically essential to equity work.
At CA, some of the most important equity work is undertaken by our students. Our affinity and alliance groups bring students together around shared identities to connect and socialize, identify issues and common concerns, and support each other. Our intersectional student-led advisory board—CoExist—bridges different identities to strengthen campus-wide equity efforts.
In my first year as Director of Equity and Community Engagement, I remember students telling me to get ready for the Affinity Group Cookoff. Each year, affinity groups opt to make a dish to share with the Upper School community. While the community votes on a winner, it really isn’t about who wins or loses. The students who participate exude joy and pride in sharing their respective dishes.
It is a seemingly simple gesture, but a deeply meaningful one. In sharing this important cultural touchpoint—imbued as food is with histories, with memory, with deep cultural and community ties—our students are sharing of themselves in a personal way. They are opening a safe space of real connection, of learning, and of acceptance through the universal language of delicious food.
Of course, this year COVID put a hitch in our community event plans. CoExist leadership, however, was undeterred. Knowing how important this event is to our community and not wanting to see another event lost to the pandemic, they immediately got to work, brainstorming ideas to keep this vital tradition.
With pride, I’m going to turn it over to Vibhav Nandagiri, CoExist Leadership, to share their exciting and outside-of-the-box solution:
This year’s Affinity Group Cookoff looked a little different than in years past. With long buffet lines and eager hands out of the question, CoExist was tasked with organizing a new way to showcase the culinary talents of our affinity groups.
The solution: Cary Academy’s first ever Affinity Group cooking show. Students pulled out their old family recipes, whipped out their spatulas, and propped up their phones to just the right angle to compose a 3-to-7 minute video of themselves preparing a dish significant to their culture.
On Wednesday afternoon, the submitted videos were put up to a panel of qualified faculty members who congregated in the Discovery Studio to view an exclusive premiere of the show. They proceeded to judge these videos on a variety of criteria, including preparation, presentation, and videography, before selecting their top choices.
In this inaugural edition of the AG cooking show, the winners were Indian Subcontinent Affinity Group, whose video you can watch below (top left). A huge thank you to those who judged and participated; while these new events might be a function of circumstance, we hope to forge traditions that will persist well beyond this strange year.
We know that food connects, brings understanding, and educates. I encourage everyone to watch not only the winning video but all of the videos (found here). They are all truly wonderful and an exceptional opportunity to get to know each other and our community better.
Enjoy and bon appétit!