School uses Lunar New Year to highlight AAPI cultures

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, February 15, 2023

School uses Lunar New Year to highlight AAPI cultures

Students at DePaul College Prep, 3333 N. Rockwell Ave., celebrated Lunar New Year with their annual Lantern Festival with a variety of activities including prayer, food, games, singing and a break-out discussion on issues facing the AAPI community on Feb. 2, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Will Marcovitch and Lexi Heltmach look over results of a live Q & A with teacher Chris Corbett as they come in in realtime during the event. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Senior Angelina Yoshimura leads a discussion. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Senior Kobe Nguyen leads a discussion. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Students in DePaul Prep’s AAPI Club and Chinese Honor Society celebrated the end of the Lunar New Year holiday Feb. 2 with a Lantern Festival.

The after-school event offered students at the school an opportunity to learn more about how Lunar New Year is celebrated across Asian cultures, said teacher Christina Baik, who works with the AAPI Club, an affinity group for students who are Asian American or Pacific Islanders, or who identify as allies to those groups.

For example, she said, the Lantern Festival is a Chinese custom, but Lunar New Year is also widely celebrated in Korea and Vietnam.

During the event, students practiced sending well-wishes in Mandarin to a student who was ill, took part in a trivia contest about Lunar New Year customs and ate Asian food, from ramen, dumplings and spring rolls to candy and sweets.

Members of the club also led discussions about issues that AAPI students face, including the difficulty many biracial students have in being recognized as members of more than one identity group.

Seniors Kobe Nguyen and Angelina Yoshimura led the round-table discussions.

“It’s been a process,” Yoshimura said, adding that last year’s discussions at Lantern Festival were a jumping-off point for ongoing conversations. “It opened a lot of eyes for students who aren’t Asian, or aren’t even people of color.”

When she was a freshman, she said, there were 10 Asian students in the class, and four were girls — including her and her twin sister.

“There’s not a lot of us here,” she said.

The group advocates for and educates about the AAPI community, Nguyen said, and he’s proud of the way it has grown over his time at DePaul Prep.

“We’re using this to highlight the traditions of different Asian American communities,” he said. “The food comes from all over.”

And, he said, the food helps attract students who are not part of the AAPI community to the event.

Mandarin teacher Christopher Corbett said the growth of interest in the AAPI Club and in the Mandarin classes at DePaul Prep over the past few years is heartening, especially at time when China and Chinese people have been blamed for the spread of COVID-19.

The number of students studying Mandarin at DePaul Prep has grown from 13 in 2020, his first year at the school, to 43 this year, Corbett said.

In addition to reaching out to their classmates, the student groups participate in community events, such as the Dragon Boat Race for Literacy, held each June in Chinatown, and the Lunar New Year parade.

“It’s about showing up,” Corbett said. He cited St. Vincent de Paul, for whom the school is named. “That’s the Vincentian question: ‘What must be done?’ I’m beyond asking the question. I’m all about doing it. We need to shore up the community for our AAPI friends.”


  • catholic schools
  • asian community
  • depaul prep high school

Related Articles