Saint Mary’s celebrates different cultures with ‘Arts Around the World’ talent show

On Thursday night, Saint Mary’s students and community members gathered in Haggar College Center for ‘Arts Around the World’, a talent show highlighting different cultures. The show was part of the week-long celebration for International Education Week. 

Spectators saw dancing, poetry, singing, folk tales and pieces of history from cultures across the globe. Most presenters were students of Saint Mary’s modern language classes, especially Spanish, French, Arabic and Mandarin. 

One such presenter was Mishelle Yepez who presented an original poem in both Spanish and English about being a Latinx in the United States.

“Social media creates such beauty standards for us. You have to fit into all these white standards” Yepez said.

She also talked about feeling the need to represent especially as a first-year student and first generation college student in a prominently white institution.

The show ended with a drum performance from professor Charles Lawrence of the Modern Languages department, who has 50+ years of percussion experience. Before he began, he asked the audience to think about the beats he would be playing and how they relate to other songs heard throughout the night. The similarities seen show that all cultures are connected, especially through music. 

Assistant professor in the Modern Languages department Marelys Valencia was key in organizing the event. Having just revived the event last year, Valencia jokingly referred to last year’s show as “the first episode of the second season, and now this year is the second episode.” 

However, Valencia also voiced a bit of disappointment at the turnout and her desire for a broader scope of both talents and represented cultures.

“I would like to see more cultural manifestations, artistic expressions.” She hopes to have more instruments and group performances in the future. 

Valencia also wants to get more involvement from the tri-campus community.

“We are trying to attract more students, not only from Saint Mary’s,” she said. “I mean, there are three campuses that can all be involved.”

This is related to the desire to get more diversity in the talents and languages seen.

“We want all the talents that are out there, and that represent different cultures and languages,” she said. Valencia also wants to see more faculty from other regions involved to better represent the amount of different world cultures. 

But the performers and audience didn’t seem as disappointed.

“I loved seeing all the dances and hearing the poems and songs. It was very interesting to learn about music I wasn’t familiar with,” sophomore Ruby Meza said, who presented a Chilean movie from her Spanish Conversation class.

Yepez echoes those thoughts.

“It was a good way to encapsulate intercultural education, especially different cultures I didn’t even know about,” she said. 

Valencia says that the talent show is hosted by the Modern Language department every November during International Education. While many of this year’s participants were from College language classes, it’s not a requirement.

“We want to make visible this international presence and anyone who wants to be involved can just email me,” she said. “If you have any talent, maybe you can present a piece from Italy or China or any country.”

The eventual dream in Valencia’s eyes is to have International representation more than once a year.

“I think that it should go beyond International Education Week, she said. “Maybe we will do some sort of festival in the spring.”

Contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at


First Gen Week brings students ‘back to the basics’ of self-care

First Gen Family at Saint Mary’s is supporting first-generation students, a term describing students who are the first in their family to pursue a four-year degree, with “First Gen Week: Back To The Basics.” 

The First Gen Family team scheduled the series for throughout this week, including a celebration dinner with a discussion from faculty, staff and students Tuesday, the same day as the National First-Generation College Celebration.

The week’s theme is learning about fundamental self-care practices despite the unique challenges of being a first-generation student, sophomore and First Gen Family president Thalia Mora said.

“You’re always working towards… proving that you’re able to be in the position you are because you’re the first in your family to be doing these things. Typically as a first gen student, you tend to put your schoolwork and others in front of yourself,” she said. “We really wanted to emphasize that you should be proud to be first gen but you should always be taking care of yourself in the process.”

Christin Kloski, the advisor for First Gen Family and an associate director of student equity at the college, said the First Gen Family executive team chose the theme because of the unique struggles of a student being the first in his or her family to attend college.

“I think a lot of times we see our first gen students struggling to balance a number of things, whether it’s being the first to go to college, with academics, the first to socialize in a college setting,” Kloski said. “We really wanted to focus on what it means to be a living, breathing student here on campus.”

Along with Tuesday’s dinner, the series hosted “Yoga and Succulents” on Monday and career advice events Wednesday. “Thrifty Thursday” will teach the value of upcycling clothing to save money and the series will conclude Friday evening with a cookie social in the LGBTQ Center.

According to Kloski, Saint Mary’s has 406 first-generation students, almost 30% of the total student population.

“We really wanted to take a lead on celebrating those students for every day of this week and to just empower and educate our community here at Saint Mary’s,” Kloski said. 

Saint Mary’s president Katie Conboy was the keynote speaker at Tuesday night’s celebration dinner, welcoming attendees with excitement about First Gen Family’s work, sophomore and vice president of First Gen Family Liliana Lomeli said.

“We had more girls show up for the yoga session than we had originally expected. And at the dinner, all the tables were full of faculty and staff. It’s just been an amazing turnout so far,” Lomeli said.

First-generation students often don’t come into school with as many connections as other students, Lomeli said, and the series attempted to resolve some of those disadvantages.

“A lot of other students come in, they know how to network and have those connections, but the series is just back to the basics,” Lomeli said. “We didn’t want to overwhelm our first-gen students but we also wanted to provide a safe space, provide them with the tools to succeed.”

Contact Liam Price at