Nelson College’s minority students took centre stage last Friday during the school’s annual Diversity Day celebrations.
The school promotes Diversity Day as an opportunity to celebrate all cultures, backgrounds, and identities in the school’s community.
The college hosted a variety of multicultural food stalls, encouraged students to wear their national dress and attend a special assembly with performances and speeches from students.
“We have a culture of support and acceptance that celebrates everyone here,” says organiser and teacher, Emma Gillyon, who opened the annual assembly.
Student performances included singer and guitarist Cung Bawi Hlichal, the college’s Pasifika Performance group and its Kapa Haka Group which performed a passionate waiata and haka.
Former student and support teacher Apitoni Filiai spoke of his experience growing up Pasifika in Nelson.
He spoke of feeling like he had to leave his identity at the door to fit in at primary school, where he was one of the few minority students.
“My friend used to tell me I couldn’t become a teacher because that was a white person’s job.”
Apitoni thanked Nelson College staff for celebrating Pasifika culture and helping him get to where he is today.
Students Robin Zathang and Allize Mangar spoke on their experiences as immigrants in New Zealand and on their time at Nelson College.
“My mother wanted her children to have a better life and education,” says year 10 student Robin, who spoke of his childhood growing up in Chin State, in west Myanmar.
Bhutanese year 13 student Allize arrived from Nepal to New Zealand in 2013 and shared his experiences with his peers.
“I lost my childhood,” says Allize, speaking of his younger years growing up in a refugee camp in Nepal.
Allize says he was initially a shy student when he first arrived in Nelson as he struggled to communicate, but says he’s had a really positive experience at Nelson College and is grateful for the support of his teachers.
He is now a part of Nelson’s Youth Council and Multicultural Youth Nelson.
“Diversity Day makes me feel really empowered. I feel welcomed and accepted,” he says.