Culture Corner

Celebrating diversity in the UPrep community


Photo: Payton Habel

Seniors Maylin Gasga and Adrianna Hernandez present the Latine Student Union at Upper School Club Fair

This year, the Diversity and Community Office is dedicating each month of the school year to celebrating the unique cultural identities that represent students and faculty on campus.
The celebration of these months was started by the Diversity and Community Office in an effort to increase student leadership in diversity equity and inclusion at University Prep.
“Over the summer, [Director of Diversity and Community] E-chieh [Lin] and I had a conversation about how we could get more affinity groups and members of our community that represent different affinity groups involved,” Diversity and Community Program Manager Patrick King said. “We really wanted to center students in these celebrations and give them an opportunity to do what they want.”
Senior and Latine Student Union leader Adriana Hernandez planned an event for Hispanic Heritage Month in October.
“Many adults in the community like E-chieh and Patrick reached out to us about whether we wanted to do something to celebrate,” Hernandez said. “They were very willing to help and support us in whatever we chose to do.”
With the help of UPrep faculty, LSU organized a school-wide event to honor Hispanic heritage.
“Día de Los Muertos is a major Mexican holiday that happens in October so we wanted to plan something around that,” Hernandez said. “We decided on sugar skull decorating which is a common tradition within the celebration.”
LSU is proud of their hard work.
“This was our first school-wide event and took a lot of planning, but I’m really proud of the outcome,” Hernandez said. “Many people showed up and it was overall a great experience.”
In addition to event planning, the Diversity and Community Office also provides other ways for community members to express their heritage. According to King, students are given the opportunity to teach their cultural identities by writing a blog post or partnering with the Commons Cafe to serve food.
Preptalks, the UPrep community blog, started the Listen to Learn Series this September.
“For each month, a member of the community that carries that identity will write a blog post sharing about their heritage,” King said. “It is a way for members of the community to learn more about different cultures and lived experiences.”

In November, Fine Arts Teacher and Theatre Manager Paul Fleming wrote about his indigenous identity for Native American Heritage Month.
“When I was in high school, I learned that I am of Cherokee Heritage on my mom’s side,” Fleming said. “Because of the threat of social stigma, my Cherokee heritage wasn’t something I explored and frankly, I wasn’t eager to make [it] part of my identity.”
It was not until adulthood that Fleming was able to understand the importance of his Native background.
“As an adult, when I realized what my Native American heritage really meant to me as a person and what I was denying myself,” Fleming said. “ All at once I felt more authentic and at the same time more disenfranchised from any one identity.”
Both King and Hernandez believe that honoring heritage months at UPrep will continue to be valuable as the school community grows.
“As part of LSU, we want to continue opening up aspects of our cultural celebrations to the entire community,” Hernandez said.
“We are a community that is growing in diversity but at the same time we are still a predominantly white institution,” King said. “This is why having the space to do cultural exploration is so important, not only for those identity groups but for all community members to be exposed.”