What is Culture Night?

By Noel Chapman

What exactly is Culture Night?  As a brand new intern here at Global Visionaries, I had no idea what to expect when I attended the first Culture Night for the participants in the First Year Leadership Program as it was my first Culture Night too.  Was it an introduction to Guatemalan culture?  Was it a time to discuss cultural issues in general?  Was it simply an informational session held once a month with a catchy title?  I found that the answer was not as simple as I had thought.

Youth Board member Laura Bedalov explained that Culture Night is where “participants discuss the goals they have for the trip.  They learn what to expect and talk about cultural differences.”  She said that this all makes students “more comfortable on the trip.”

Hannah Malham, another Youth Board member, said that the first Culture Night is where students and parents get the “basic information of the whole program.”  On other Culture Nights, Hannah went on to say, the students “learn about cultural injustices and about their group that they will be going on the trip with.”

Culture Night is in fact a time where participants are introduced to Guatemalan culture, where they discuss cultural issues and get information on the trip.  All of my first assumptions seem to be correct.  However, I think Tiffany Lumley, GV assistant program manager, hit on an element of Culture Night that is not as easy to explain or see, but an element that is extremely important.

Culture Night is where the first year students and parents get introduced to the culture of GV itself.  As Tiffany put it, they get to see “how people think in GV” and are exposed to GV’s “very strong culture.”  From the first “¡Buenas noches!,” the participants are inundated with the strong energy and confidence that is prolific in GV.

As I was standing in the first meeting room waiting for the official program to begin, Chris Fontana, GV executive director, asked the group to raise their hands if they were going on the Summer Trip and then if they were going on the Spring Trip.  However, he didn’t just ask them to raise their hands, but told them that there are no bent elbows at GV.  Their hands had to be straight up in the air.  When I saw that, I was shocked, but I soon learned that that’s just how GV does things.  That was GV’s culture.

From the very beginning, GV expects their participants to come energized, confident, and ready and willing to participate.  Though raising your hand with no bent elbow may be a small demonstration of this, it was evidence enough for me.  These are both crucial and rare qualities of a good leader, something more high school students should be learning.  From my perspective, GV’s introduction to its own culture during Culture Nights is the first step in “empowering young people” as the mission states.

Come experience what the first year participants do during some of their Culture Nights by joining us at GV’s Diversity Training workshop in December. Register and learn more.

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