The United States is made up of people who have brought portions of their culture from all over the world.
Whether newly immigrated to America or a member of a family that has been here for generations, many people often keep part of the culture that their ancestors cultivated in the countries or parts of the world where they originally came from.
Westwood High School senior Kimberly Huang has been involved in the Chinese cultural arts since she was about 4-years-old, participating in Chinese dance, martial arts (Wushu) and music. Huang is also involved in many other activities, including the debate team and academic decathlon.
“Over 39 years of teaching, she is one of the most well-rounded students I’ve known,” Westwood High teacher David Dore said. “She’s brilliant and always smiling. Everyone likes being around Kim.”
Along with her older sister Sarina, a 2010 Westwood High graduate who is currently a junior at Princeton, Huang started a Westwood Chinese Cultural Night, which is now in its sixth year.
“Both of us have really been involved since we were really young in cultural arts,” Sarina said. “We just thought it was very meaningful and saw that [Chinese culture] was something lacking in Westwood. My parents and I did more [than Kimberly] at the start. She did fundraising, helping make posters, proofreading things and going door-to-door.
“She began doing more independently [as the years went on]. Since I left for college she’s really taken the baton.”
The first year the Huangs put together Chinese Cultural Night was when Sarina was a freshman in high school and Kimberly was in sixth grade. Both sisters had been involved in performing since they were very young, whether it was dance, piano, flute or the Chinese flute, and they didn’t see a lot of Chinese cultural shows in the Westwood area. They’ve been able to get different performing groups to come to Westwood, including a couple from China last year.
“Each year it gets bigger and bigger,” Kimberly said. “The school and the town are really supportive.”
Huang said planning Chinese Cultural Night is a project that is worked on throughout the year. She is the President of the school’s Unity Club, and club members work on it, as well as members from the community. It takes a lot of coordinating and fundraising to make the event happen, and to be as successful as it has been.
Westwood Chinese Cultural Night was so successful that it sparked a local interest in Chinese culture, arts and the language. This led to Huang organizing the Westwood Chinese School, where students of all ages learn dance, martial arts and how to speak Mandarin, among other things. There are currently about 200 students, among which are four bilingual classes.
“I didn’t expect it to get this big,” Huang said.
One other thing Huang tried for the first time this past summer was entering a pageant, but she’s quick to point out that this pageant wasn’t a typical beauty pageant where she was judged on her looks alone. America’s National Teenager Miss America also puts emphasis on schoolwork and community service. Those two things count for 30% of the scoring. Huang won Miss Massachusetts in the teenager division, and went to San Antonio for the Miss America pageant, where she came in second. For the talent portion of the competition she performed some martial arts techniques. Interestingly enough, Sarina entered this competition in her age division for the first time as well, and she won.
“She always been my partner in crime,” the older sister said when asked about the relationship between the two of them.
With much of her senior year at Westwood High still to come, there’s still a lot left for Kimberly Huang to accomplish before she heads off to college, where she is considering studying biology or chemistry and possibly heading to law school after that. For now, though, she still has to balance planning Chinese Cultural Night, Westwood Chinese School, martial arts, teaching piano, the debate team, academic decathlon and several other activities.
“Being busy is just part of my life,” she said.
Said Dore, “I totally expect her to be accepted at more than one Ivy League school. She’ll have a choice of where to go.”