ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Thursday marks the last day of the 10-day Hindu festival, Dussehra which celebrates good over evil. In honor of such, the Rochester International Academy (RIA) is using the opportunity to show their immigrant and refugee students that they can still embrace their culture despite being in an entirely new country.
“All of my students are brand new to the United States. We tell them, they have to learn English to be successful scholars, to have full access to career and college opportunities, but we don’t want them to forget their culture,” said RIA founder and principal, Mary Andrecolich-Montesano-Diaz.
Andrecolich-Montesano-Diaz explains introducing students to other immigrants who still practice their culture serves as an example. This week, the school was able to do just that thanks to the generosity of an RIA advisory board member.
“When you talk about community service, this is community service. Dr. Meera Sampath and her husband (Siva Visveswaran) opened up their doors, and we rushed in,” Andrecolich-Montesano-Diaz said, “This is a beautiful opportunity for them to see a very successful person who has also always celebrated her culture.”
Dr. Meera Sampath is the Dean of Research at Binghamton University, as well as an Indian immigrant living in Brighton. To honor the Hindu festival of Dussehra, Dr. Sampath opened her home to RIA students with various activities and exhibits to not only show them a new culture but to show them that their own culture has a place in the United States.
“I think it is important for them also to see that even though now you are in an entirely new land you have left your home behind; you can still continue your traditions. You can still do the things that are important to you,” Dr. Sampath said.
While this may not seem like a typical field trip, Principal Diaz says RIA is different and for that reason, their programs have to be different too.
“If we talk about equity, then this is an equitable field trip for my students. We also take them on field trips to the zoo and the museum, but this is what they need. They need to understand that they’re in a country that will embrace them, that diversity is power, and that they are welcomed. And that even though our cultures are different, our religions are different, we can still be successful, happy, healthy, and educated here in the United States,” Andrecolich-Montesano-Diaz said.
Dr. Sampath explained the last two days of Dussehra has an emphasis on education which is why the field trip was scheduled for this week.