“The main purpose of our festival is to raise awareness of all the diversity at our school… Just one day to experience the diversity of one school.”
Name: Sarah Howes
Hometown: Katy, TX
Education: Katy High School
Passions and Interests: Plays recreational soccer and is a member of the Science Bowl team
Transformational Experience: Galapagos: Preserving Nature’s Wonders™
Making an Impact: Creating an International Club with her sister at her high school, and launching an International Festival to celebrate diversity
Sarah chose to attend a GLA program because her older sister did one a couple of years earlier, and she was inspired to do the same. They each came to the conclusion that GLA was the right fit because, as Sarah says, “GLA focuses on building strong bonds with peers while dedicating hard work to helping the area.”
When Sarah’s sister returned from her GLA program, she shared her story of how the experience changed her life, and Sarah just “knew that I had to share her experience sometime in the future.”
So Sarah made the leap and traveled to South America on GLA’s Galapagos: Preserving Nature’s Wonders™ program.
Being on a GLA program has opened my eyes to the countless challenges people (and the environment) around the world face, and in return the limitless ways I can help make a difference. Through my experience in the Galapagos, I now consider the weight of my footprint I leave behind on the environment. I have also learned to take time to appreciate even the smallest joys in life. I now know how important traveling and experiencing other cultures is to me, I never want to stop exploring.”
And it’s this desire to keep exploring, and sharing that love of exploration with others, that led Sarah and her sister to give back in a big way: by starting an International Club at their high school and launching its first-ever International Festival.
Sarah and her sister designed the club to provide a friendly and welcoming environment for “third culture” kids and expats, so that they can connect their culture with others, and explore others besides their own.
“Third culture” means those who have lived overseas, where their first culture is where they grew up, and the second culture being where their parents are from. This was important for both sisters to facilitate with students at their school, since before moving to Texas, Sarah had attended the Cairo American College in Egypt, and was a third culture kid herself. This was also where they first encountered the idea of the cross-cultural festival, as the International Festival at their Cairo school had been the biggest event there each year.
This was truly a special day for all the students, especially myself, as we got to experience, learn about, and share cultures and customs from all over the world. When I moved to Katy [Texas], I was shocked to find out that our high school, a school with one of the most diverse populations in the region, didn’t host a festival celebrating diversity. Knowing this, my sister, a couple of our expat friends and I set to work planning our own International Festival at the school.”
Unlike at their school back in Cairo, the festival struggled to attract support at first, because no had a related experience with a similar event. So Sarah and her sister turned to the familiar to build those connections. They started by getting support for their festival idea with the cultural clubs at their school, including the German, French and Spanish clubs. Once these clubs agreed to man booths at the festival, and brought along some others who were interested in sharing their talents for cultural songs and dances, the festival took off.
With every year, the festival has gained more and more support and participation, which goes to show how much hard work pays off!
As the festival continues to grow, the celebration of diversity couldn’t be stronger in Katy, Texas. Sarah is also looking toward her own future of exploration, with hopes to travel abroad again, though her immediate interest is getting into a science program in college.
In the meantime, when asked what words of wisdom she’d like to leave others interested in sharing cultures and exploring new ones, she left us with something we can all learn from:
Don’t let anyone ever tell you the sky’s the limit: there’s a whole universe out there waiting for you.”
Program Sarah attended:
GLA Galapagos: Preserving Nature’s Wonders™
Curious about exploring your own GLA adventure? Check these out:
- GLA Galapagos: Preserving Nature’s Wonders™
- GLA Peru: Service in the Sacred Valley
- GLA Peru: Spanish Service Adventure