Design encourages cultural awareness, acceptance at CG-B
When the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek took place on Aug. 5, 2012, Cedar Grove-Belgium High School student Kiran Sehgal felt “frustrated” but couldn’t relate her feelings to others at the school.
So Sehgal, who’s father Vijay is from
India but not Sikh, started the Multicultural Awareness Club at the school.
Now in its second year, the club is putting the finishing touches on a mural on the first floor of the school that features national flags on leaves of a tree surrounded by monuments around the world.
“After the shooting happened, I thought the group would kind of be a neat thing to do in response,” Sehgal said. “I wanted to help people understand that there are other cultures and ideas and to take them into consideration.
“I wanted to do a mural for awhile now and saw the wall that it’s now on and thought, ‘This is a good spot.’ Hopefully it helps people see that there is a whole world outside and a lot of cool places.”
The club has grown to almost 20 members and includes students from a range of nationalities.
The mural shows flags of foreign exchange students who have attended the school, as well as the flags of Luxembourg and Holland, which dominate the population at the high school.
There are flags from Greece, Germany, Italy, Switzerland Israel and many other countries.
The club started work on the mural in January and hope to add handprints and initials of those who worked on it by March.
The goal is to add onto the mural in the future, by adding more flags or extending the landscape and monuments around the tree.
The Multicultural Awareness Club, which meets monthly, is planning a cultural fair at the end of the school year, which will feature a henna tattoo booth, food from nations around the world and a dance performance,
The group has a Facebook page and Sehgal spreads word of the group while passing people in the halls.
“I try to keep everybody updated because I know everyone is so busy and involved and (with it) being such a small school, it’s hard for everyone to come to everything they want to,” Sehgal said.
The high school Art Club helped paint the mural and supports the Multicultural Awareness Club’s vision.
“It’s a great way to start cultural awareness in the school,” Art Club vice president Angela Popp said, “especially with Cedar Grove being a small, non-diverse community for the most part.”
Sehgal said a friend’s father was delivering food to the temple just before the shooting in which seven people, including the shooter, were killed.
“My dad knew people who were there and it was just a hard moment for me because some people are just not used to other cultures, I guess,” she said. “My goal is just to raise awareness and be tolerant of others.”
Sehgal graduates in June and will attend Carthage College in Kenosha to study neuroscience and psychology.
But the club won’t end when she leaves.
“I have some younger people who I will give the responsibility to after I’m gone,” Sehgal said. “I have a younger brother, but I’m not sure he wants to do it right now. I don’t want to hand responsibility over to someone
who isn’t going to do anything with it.”
She credits the club’s faculty adviser, Dave Claerbaut, with helping the group get started.
“He helped me spearhead this and get more students involved,” Sehgal said.
“He made it seem important. The teachers have all been pretty supportive.”
For now, Sehgal’s goal for the club is to spread a message of positive education and diversity of other cultures.
“There are different people and different ideas outside of this bubble,” she said.
Popp agreed, adding the Art Club holds the same beliefs as Sehgal’s club.
“There needs to be more awareness about diversity and accepting of everyone,” Popp said. “We do projects to show that. When we heard about the club doing this, we wanted to be a part of it.”
CEDAR GROVE-BELGIUM HIGH SCHOOL students (front row, from left) Gabrielle Jurgilanis and Pa Yang, (back row) Brooke Tharp, Ashley Henry, Ben Schroeder, Katie Gruell, Sarah Kiskunas, Margaret Cobb, Ashley Washak, Elysia Hoopman, Sarah Parker, Andrea Popp, Kiran Sehgal, show off a nearly-completed mural last week. The Multicultural Awareness Club and the Art Club painted the mural showcasing national flags as parts of leaves on a tree. Putting the finishing touches on a section of the Multicultural Awareness Club and Art Club mural were (from right) Sarah Kiskunas and Margaret Cobb. The students began work on the mural in January and hope to be finished in the next few weeks. Photos by Sam Arendt