On Saturday, October 25th the African American Cultural Center (AACC) will welcome scores of area kids for this year’s Heritage Day. Heritage Day is an annual event that involves students from multiple student organizations working with area students, most of them ranging from six to fourteen years old.
During Heritage Day, younger kids enjoy activities such as craft making, storytelling, face painting, quilt making, and stepping. The teen participants enjoy workshops such as a running technique workshop with the track team, and an African American dance workshop with DanceVisions. New skills are not the only thing that the AACC hopes kids take away from Heritage Day, event organizers hope that participants take away broader messages from Heritage Day.
“We always hope that Heritage Day entices students in middle and elementary school to think about going to college,” said director of programming Toni Thorpe. For many area students, the opportunity to see a college campus up close and interact with college students is rare, and the experience of Heritage Day allows for college to seem like a more realistic possibility for them.
The nature of Heritage Day itself is beneficial to students who attend, as Heritage Day encourages cooperation and teamwork as children have to work together to learn a skill and, in many cases, perform it together by the end of the day. Before the activities even begin, students work together to establish “Village Rules” for the day, learning about the value of rules and what it takes to form a strong community or family. Attendees also learn facts about African American history, and by the end of the day, the kids have learned that they are capable of learning new facts, giving them renewed confidence in their own academic abilities.
Here at North Carolina State, we have many programs for many different things, and they all have their own value in different ways. But programs and events like these may be the most important and the most beneficial, because they allow students to give back to their communities and advertise positively for the university at the same time. Heritage Day shows off not only what NC State is but what students here are capable of doing. The event is organized almost entirely by students, and student organizations are completely responsible for all the workshops and youth zones that kids enjoy.
The benefit to minority students in particular should not be downplayed, as it allows them to see people who look like them succeeding academically. As senior Brittany Davis notes, “Heritage Day represents an opportunity for minority children to be exposed to a large university.” Exposure to successful students who they can relate to often helps young people to feel like they can be successful in the classroom.
Heritage Day is an example of the many different ways students at NC State are talented, and of the willingness to give and serve the community that the student body has. In the end, Heritage Day is a positive experience for all involved.