Texarkana College is a great place for high school students and adults who are looking to begin a new career path. It’s also an affordable opportunity for students around the world who are trying to get an education in the United States. According to data from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), more than 1.18 million international students choose to study in America, and one of the top destinations is Texas.
Dr. Theresa McDonald teaches Computer Technology at Texarkana College and she said in the 32 years working on campus, she has seen an increase in students from other countries. That’s why she chose to sponsor the Cultural Awareness Student Association (CASA).
“It’s really enlightening to hear students talk about what it was like growing up as a teenager in their country,” McDonald said. “I think it’s important to have that one-on-one with people who are different from you.”
McDonald’s mother is from West Texas and is Mexican-American. For her, learning the beliefs and traditions of other cultures is invaluable.
“We want to help students develop an understanding and acceptance of their own culture and the cultures of those around them,” she said.
CASA’s mission is to create opportunities for students and the Northeast Texas community as a whole to expand their cultural knowledge and appreciation through educational and social activities.
The organization plans different events to celebrate cultural heritage months. September 15 through October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month.
“This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month event is on October 3 at noon in the Truman Arnold Student Center,” McDonald said. “We have a piñata, music and members of my church Primera Iglesia Bautista (Hispanic Baptist Church) bring food and serve it. Sometimes we have a grito contest, which is an expression of excitement, joy and pride for the Mexican culture. Students compete to see who can do it best.”
There are currently nine members in the organization, but McDonald and CASA President Juvard Anthony would like to see it grow.
“Anybody from any walk of life is invited to join our group,” Anthony said. “I really want us to unite as a family. We need to stand together and embrace our differences.”
Currently, the organization has six members from America, two from Pakistan and one from Nepal.
“Last week we got to try different foods native to Pakistan,” he said. “One of my favorite dishes was a potato dish called pakora that almost looked like a stuffed French fry. It was really good.”
Anthony said the best part about getting involved is being able to meet people from other parts of the world and learning what’s important to them.
After Hispanic Heritage Month, they will begin planning a celebration for Native American Heritage Month, which is coming up in November. McDonald said in years past, the Choctaw Nation has been involved in the celebration on campus.
“A tribal member brought his weapons, and students got to help with the beading of necklaces,” she said.
After that, they will begin planning for Black History Month in February. McDonald said they would like to continue to add different cultures to their list to create more opportunities for Texarkana College students to understand the world around them.
CASA meets every Thursday at 1 p.m. in the Business & Computer Technology building, Room 3.