Valuing Culture and Diversity

Editor's note: Simar Garcha `19 addressed an audience of students, faculty, staff, and families at the Honors Convocation on Sunday, May 5 in the Kimberly Chapel. Students are presented a variety of awards, while employees are recognized for their service to the Academy during this annual event that signals the school year will soon draw to a close. View additional photos from the Honors Convocation.

One thing I value about Wayland is the amount of culture and diversity that fill such a small space in the little town of Beaver Dam. Growing up, I was extremely jealous of my bilingual friends. I saw them communicating in a whole other language so perfectly and so comfortably, and I wanted to be a part of it.
Both my parents were raised speaking Hindi, Punjabi, and English, but when I grew up, they only thought of teaching me English. When I asked them why they didn’t teach me Hindi or Punjabi, they always said the same thing every time: “Simar, you looked so cute speaking English.” But them thinking I was cute made it harder for me to communicate with my loved ones. Even though she knows some English, I always knew it was easier for my grandma to speak Punjabi, so whenever I wanted to talk to her, it was difficult to find common ground with limited knowledge of each other’s languages.
Because of this, in the sixth grade, I decided to teach myself both Punjabi and Hindi. If no one was going to speak to me and help me learn, then I was going to do it on my own to prove my family that this was something that I truly cared about. While I didn’t need these languages at school, I felt compelled to learn for my family, and with this self-made responsibility, learning my family’s language became a passion. I can happily say that my grandma and I help each other; I help her with English and in return, she helps me with Hindi.
When I started high school, it was my first opportunity to work with a “root” language: Latin. Before Wayland, I didn’t even know that people studied root languages at a high school level. As soon as I met Dr. Lake H`12, I fell in love with the influence Latin had with other languages. She helped me see the connections that this language had in the world: the derivatives in English, the off-branches of the language, and the overall imprint the language left after thousands of years. In this class, I saw the bigger picture of learning a language like Latin. When my dad and I were in France, we got lost. Neither of us knew French, but because of my knowledge of Latin, I was able to understand some of the words in French to help us get back on track. It was at that moment I saw the possibilities that languages could hold in my life.
As I graduate and move on, I will think back on my time at Wayland. I am grateful to have had this diverse community that pushed me to learn more about language, challenged my thoughts, given me lifelong friendships, and provided me with the opportunities that I was able to enjoy. Because of Wayland, I was able to speak my language with people from across the world, which, in turn, helped me feel more confident speaking with my family. I hope for you all to follow your passions as I do with my love of languages, find mentors who can help you achieve your goal, and use the many resources you have on this campus because it is full of resources from around the world.

Remember: communication is what makes us human, and communication is what makes us, as a community, special.
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