Embracing Diversity in Tumwater High School’s Cultural Awareness Club

This tee-shirt sports the Tumwater High School’s Cultural Awareness Club logo proudly.


By Kira Stussy, Tumwater High School intern to ThurstonTalk

This tee-shirt sports the Tumwater High School’s Cultural Awareness Club logo proudly.
This tee-shirt sports the Tumwater High School Cultural Awareness Club logo proudly.

Eating, dancing, singing, speaking, gesturing. These are all aspects of a complex concept we call culture. Around the world, there are hundreds of thousands of various societies, each with their own distinct culture and way of life. At Tumwater High School, and probably several other schools in the area, these different lifestyles and ethnicities are given a place of recognition with the Cultural Awareness Club – a club specifically designed with world cultures in mind.

“I didn’t notice much culture here,” said Kosal Gonzales, president of the club, “and I just wanted to do something about it. I wanted to bring people who love culture together to spread the culture and just express their culture around the school as well.” Kosal, along with several other members, are passionate about spreading culture around the school and community to create awareness. “I’m here, notice me.” He jokes with a broad grin stretched across his face.

When asked about racism in the school he merely claims he has almost never heard or seen anything disrespectful at Tumwater High School, “But if I see it, I will stop it.” Kosal’s goal for the club in the next year or so is to expand “out of the career center and pack out the small gym, no, the big gym with members.”  The students in the club are able to strut their cultures down the hallways with confidence and enthusiastically encourage everyone with an interest in global lifestyles to join. The club also regularly participates in debates during meetings that can get “pretty heavy” but are still generally jovial. Kosal speaks of the sense of unity within the group and the safe ambiance there. “I really like the member and the opportunity to share my culture with others in the school.

Tumwater Cultural Awareness club
Kosal Gonzales, club president, wants to create a more diverse atmosphere at THS.

Both January and February are particularly special months for the club, what with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 20, 2014 and February’s Black History Month. “Black History Month is a good time to recognize all of our African American heroes,” said Kosal. In fact, the club played a large role in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day assembly this year, helping to inform the entire student body about King’s accomplishments and why we still celebrate his work to this day. But according to Todd Caffey, the club advisor, founder and a counselor at THS, the club, “thinks of things that we can do throughout the student body to raise awareness…whether it be Black History month or how we help with the Dr. King assembly or in May during Asian History month or for Cinco De Mayo…” and so many more.

Caffey originally started the club due to his lifelong passion for culture and because “the idea of justice has always been important” to him even as a child. “Having a safe place for people to talk about culture, where they are from and be able to celebrate” are what make the club meaningful and unique. Caffey recently visited several southern states such as Alabama and Georgia and came back with a “new and more personal perspective” after seeing places where civil rights leaders once lived and fought for what they believed in.

Tumwater High School Cultural Awareness Club
Todd Caffey, advisor and club founder and counselor, has always had a passion for global cultures and for “justice” since he was a small child.

The goal of the Cultural Awareness club is to create a safe environment where diversity is welcome and where anybody can speak about their culture openly with their peers. “But we do not exclude,” Caffey explains.  Many kids at the high school assume that if they are not of color or if they are not sure of their cultural background, then they are not allowed to join, but this is certainly not the case. Both Caffey and Kosal encourage everyone to come and experience the club no matter where they are from. “I think it is something every school should have,” shares Caffey. He is excited to see where the club goes in the very near future and how it will continue to flourish in the school, creating a supportive team of students and teachers alike who help each other embrace their heritage.

The way people go about their daily lives, the way people communicate with friends, and simply the way they carry themselves is a reflection of their culture. Everything a person does contributes not only to their culture but to what is around them. It is important to be informed of the various lifestyles surrounding you and groups like Tumwater’s Cultural Awareness Club are making giant leaps and bounds at creating a more knowledgeable society with an increased respect for the varied cultures that define each and every person.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email