Juliet Aquino, KnightTV Executive Producer

For years, Prospect High School has been referred to as the “White Castle.” With a predominantly white Prospect student body and staff, students Grace He and Jasmine Saji “felt a cultural disconnection with [their] cultural heritage.” Both He and Saji recall feeling guilt and confusion while trying to understand the meaning behind their race.

“We often felt that we needed to assimilate or even hide our ethnic identities in order to fit in,” He said.

Instead of becoming angry at the lack of cultural representation in their community, He and Saji decided to try and change the way that Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) students are sometimes overshadowed at Prospect, so they created the Sugar and Spice Club. 

Sugar and Spice is a way for He, Saji and club sponsor Joyce Kim to create a safe space for students and staff to discuss their cultural obstacles. 

Saji hopes to spread “inclusiveness, belonging, acceptance and confidence” through their bi-weekly meetings and hopes to give a voice to the voiceless. 

“We decided to create a club that … educates our peers about different cultures and forms a relaxed and comfortable environment,” Saji said.

The two seniors chose Kim as their staff sponsor because she was their Honors Written and Oral Composition teacher throughout freshman year.

“We wanted someone who could empathize with us and successfully help this club come to life,” Saji said. 

During their first meeting, Kim led the group by introducing herself, He and Saji before she allowed He to take the floor and start her presentation. He introduced the group to the history of traditional Chinese food while even discussing proper Chinese etiquette. 

The club members intently listened as He recalled anecdotes from her childhood of her peers making jokes about the food she brought to school for lunch and the apparent microaggressions towards her culture. 

He’s presentation ended with teaching the club members how to hold chopsticks the right way, and Kim opened the floor to questions from the students and staff who began to share their own stories of cultural identity. For their second meeting on March 5, held from 8:40 to 9:30 in the morning, Saji gave her own presentation discussing the differences between Northern and Southern India. 

Looking forward, Kim hopes to hold a meeting to brainstorm substitutes for questions or phrases that might be offensive to BIPOC or culturally diverse students. To join this club, all students have to do is join their bi-weekly Zoom meeting and be prepared to listen. 

“[We want to work on] shed[ding] light on cultural identity as an asset, not a liability, and Sugar and Spice is a perfect way to start this journey,” He said.