Asian Club brings community for rising ENL student body

INDIANA NASH/GAZETTE REPORTER
Members of the Asian Club take a break from their taste-testing meeting for a photo at Niskayuna High School. 
Monday, Oct. 17, 2016.INDIANA NASH/GAZETTE REPORTER Members of the Asian Club take a break from their taste-testing meeting for a photo at Niskayuna High School. Monday, Oct. 17, 2016.

BY INDIANA NASH

Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA- The aromas of Ddukokki, soy sauce and other foods filled a classroom at Niskayuna High School.

Around 40 students and some parents milled around the island where the food was on display.

But it was more than just the food that brought the students together.

It was the first event hosted by Asian Club.

Huichu Hsu, who teaches Chinese at Niskayuna, is the club’s advisor and the club’s founder.

When she came to the school last year, she quickly began to notice a need to provide more of a community for Asian students, especially for those who English is their second language.

“Sometimes I feel like my English could be better too and everyone is very patient with me,” Hsu said.

This year, Niskayuna’s English as a new language class has doubled in size and according to Hsu, most of those students are Asian.

With Asian Club, Hsu hopes to give students who may be struggling with the language or might be fairly new to the area, a place where they can come together.

Hsu has also noticed that many students are interested in Asian culture.

“We’re dividing it up and learning about a different culture every two to three months,” Hus said.

The first culture the club is exploring is Korean, with Korean music, television shows and foods.

Then Chinese culture will be next on the list, with a special celebration planned for Chinese New Years.

For now, Sabrina Yu, the club’s secretary has been leading the initiative to explore Korean culture and customs.

“Ever since eighth grade, I’ve been such a fan of Korean Culture. It started with Korean music then I started watching Korean shows and then I became interested in Korean history,” Yu said.

Yu is Chinese-American, but when she delved into learning about Korean culture, she found more similarities than differences between the two cultures.

Santino Sementilli, the club’s president, has been trying to learn more about Chinese language and culture since elementary school.

“I’m finally taking Chinese now,” Sementilli said, trying to speak with Hsu with a few phrases he’d learned in class earlier that day.

While there are other clubs at the high school that appeal to students interested in Asian culture (such as Japanese Anime club), Hsu and club members hope that Asian Club will be a place to welcome students within those clubs as well.

However, Hsu is especially hoping that students like Coco Lin, who came to the United State just two years ago, will find a community in the club.

“I feel this club creates a safe space for them,” Hsu said.