Weekly Feature



2016-11-02 / Lifestyles

Students create international club, welcome all

LUCY LOPEZ
Reporter


Moderators Andres Arroyo, left, and John Hicks are shown with the International Student Alliance executive board, Nate Stawasz, Anthony Nguyen, Hasan Hamoudi, Charles Chimera, Luke Pappagallo, Yousef Alhorebi, Ali Khan, Jared Chmielewski, Paulo Pereira, Michael Goodman, David Campbell and Sadeq Elbaneh. Moderators Andres Arroyo, left, and John Hicks are shown with the International Student Alliance executive board, Nate Stawasz, Anthony Nguyen, Hasan Hamoudi, Charles Chimera, Luke Pappagallo, Yousef Alhorebi, Ali Khan, Jared Chmielewski, Paulo Pereira, Michael Goodman, David Campbell and Sadeq Elbaneh. I t all started with a place to watch futbol. Yes futbol, not football.

Sweet Home High School is home to students from many different countries. In the International Student Alliance club, there are 20 cultures represented. Seniors Paulo Pereira, who is from Brazil, and Hasan Hamoudi, from Iraq, wanted to create a place for everyone to feel welcome and celebrate their diversity.

Originally named the Brazilian-Arabian Alliance, it really all started last year with inviting students to watch soccer, or futbol, as it’s called in other countries.

Pereira and Hamoudi agreed that there weren’t enough school events that included and welcomed international students.

“It was the same 20 kids going to all the sporting events, and since soccer is so well known in the countries we’re all from, we thought it would be fun to start with a common ground [of watching] the UEFA Cup soccer game,” said Hamoudi, referring to the European championship.

Pereira says he went to the English nonnative language classroom the day after their first event and said students he had never talked to were thanking him for the opportunity to meet new people. Pereira also was in the ENL program when he started at Sweet Home. “The biggest similarity with all of us is that every student wants to be part of a community. The ISA creates a community that they not only feel comfortable in but also thrive in,” Pereira said. “Their passion for soccer is only one of the many similarities that we use to untie them.”


Paulo Pereira and Anthony Nguyen are shown after the ping-pong tournament thrown by the International Student Alliance last June. 
Photos courtesy of Sweet Home High School Paulo Pereira and Anthony Nguyen are shown after the ping-pong tournament thrown by the International Student Alliance last June. Photos courtesy of Sweet Home High School As the club grew in popularity, it was renamed the International Student Alliance. Members are from Brazil, Pakistan and various nations in the Middle East, as well as African and Asian nations. Pereira says American students also participate in the club. There are currently 86 general members in addition to the group’s executive board.

The ISA has become a leader in event planning at Sweet Home. Its members held a ping-pong tournament with a bigger turnout than expected in June and are planning to hold a volleyball tourney this year. They also participated in the BOO Benefit for Halloween where students trick or treat around the school, are holding a book drive for one of the elementary schools and are planning to volunteer at a soup kitchen on Election Day.

In addition to planning their own events, Pereira is now working with the Parent Teacher Student Association to work on coordinating events together. He hopes the ISA will have an overall impact on the school community by being involved with other clubs and continuing the efforts to create a welcoming community for not only foreign students but everyone.

Pereira and Hamoudi believe that even after they graduate the ISA has a bright future.

“If we could inspire other kids at other schools to do what we’re doing, that would be amazing,” Hamoudi said.

“We believe that we have created a project that withstands the test of time. We also believe that this sense of acceptance and diversity that have been implemented in Sweet Home will last long after we’re gone,” Hamoudi said. “We have many underclassmen climbing through our ranks that will take over the ISA board of executives next year.”

Pereira recalls the feeling he had when he realized the club could really make a difference.

“My favorite memory was the turnout at our first BAA events. Seeing all those people gathered together like brothers not caring about what race or creed. That brought a tear to my eye. The world is a humongous, disorganized, very chaotic place and frightens people to death,” he said.

“It a mixture of various moral codes, races, creeds, religions, characters, expressions, values and, most importantly, cultures. What I saw that day showed what the world should be like — accepting and welcoming. I have always believed that there is something that can surmount the differences between people and even untie them. And that day I saw it.”

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