Elon senior Mei Soopper has been waiting for this day since January. From contacting vendors to cooking and set-up, Soopper has been working with the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education to coordinate the kickoff event for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
On Tuesday, Medallion Plaza was filled with students engaging with, learning about and celebrating Asian and Pacific Islander heritage and culture. The two-hour event was just the beginning of Elon’s celebration of API Heritage Month.
“We’ve never had an API kickoff to this scale,” Soopper said. “We never had vendors. We never had food. We never invited all of Elon, so this is the first year that we’re doing an event quite to this scale for the month.”
While Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is celebrated in the U.S. in May, Elon University recognizes Asian and Pacific Islander heritage with a series of events throughout April.
Medallion Plaza was lined with different vendor booths, representing different student organizations, local businesses and community resources. There were also books from The May Book Project on display, all written by Asian authors and centering Asian stories.
Senior Lily Tran was one of the vendors, representing her business Glass Lotus, which sells crystal candies. Tran said she grew up making them with her mom and after a study abroad program to Japan in January, she felt inspired to make the treat for her fellow students.
“Coming to Elon being an Asian identifying student, it was really hard for the transition at first because I wasn't really aware of the community that was here,” Tran said. “As the years passed by, I realized that I chose Elon for a reason. It’s home for a reason.”
Over 100 students attended the kickoff event, including senior Juliette Kahn, who said she enjoyed the event and found it both educational and exciting.
Kahn said she was excited to see the amount of students that showed up to support and celebrate Elon’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
Students were not the only attendees at the kickoff. Assistant professor of psychology Adam Kim said he admired how the event brought the school community together. He said while these events provide community and visibility for Asian students, they can be beneficial for other students, as well.
“It's really useful to further your education, get another perspective on other people's lives and experiences,” Kim said. “We do that in the classroom, but you can also do that outside of the classroom, and this is an important part of college.”
According to the university’s diversity dashboard, the Asian and Pacific Islander communities make up 2.32% of undergraduate students, 2.3% of graduate students, 7.12% of full-time faculty and 1% of full-time staff.
Soopper said she was excited to see students from all different backgrounds and parts of campus present. She hopes students will continue to show support throughout the rest of the month’s events.
As a student involved with the CREDE, Asian Pacific Student Association and Kappa Phi Lambda, Soopper said her work in Elon’s Asian community has been an integral part of her Elon experience.
“To be able to celebrate our history, all different types of Asian people means a lot to me,” she said. “To see this before I leave means so much.”