West Side Story

Students host third annual ‘Walk It Out’ celebrating diversity

The multicultural fashion show featured over 100 student models and drew a packed room of attendees to West's cafeteria on Saturday, March 9. This event allowed students to show off their respective cultures and raised money for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

 

With students hailing from numerous countries and speaking nearly 80 different languages, West High stands out as more diverse than many high schools across Iowa. Several of these unique cultures were exhibited on Saturday, March 9 when students put on West’s third annual multicultural fashion show, Walk it Out. Featuring over 100 student models and garnering a packed room of attendees, the show was the cumulation of months of work aiming to show off various cultures from around the globe.

Walk it Out began as a fashion show at the University of Iowa in 2009 aiming to celebrate diversity and acceptance. It was adapted for high school in 2016 when Yiwen Gao ’17 and Sarah Ahmed ’17 organized the first high school version of the show.

“I decided to start a Walk it Out at West because I was inspired and empowered by the one at [the University of Iowa],” Gao said. “I felt like West never had a multicultural club or show, but we needed to celebrate the diversity of the student population.”

I felt like West never had a multicultural club or show, but we needed to celebrate the diversity of the student population.”

— Yiwen Gao '17

Since its debut three years ago, the show has expanded significantly. This year’s event featured models representing East Asia, South Asia, Latin America, Africa, Black-American culture and a new addition this year, the Middle East. Models walked or danced in their respective sections of the show, donning traditional attire from countries anywhere from Pakistan to Mexico.

Besides allowing students to show their diverse cultures, Walk it Out also enables students to develop other valuable traits. Sophia Chen ’19, who co-directed the show alongside Lydia Guo ’19, believes that she improved her leadership abilities through coordinating Walk it Out for the past two years.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot of leadership skills, like organizing tons of people together and having to communicate effectively,” Chen said. “The hardest part for me was figuring out how to delegate tasks effectively so that I wasn’t the only one doing everything. That has made my life a lot easier for this year’s show.”

Additionally, the 2019 show presented several technical changes from previous years. Aside from having more models and cultural groups, Walk it Out had a professional DJ, improved lighting and sound equipment. Additionally, there were tables of artifacts from each cultural group for audience members to look at.

The feeling that I got when I walked up on the stage was something unique … I loved being with such a diverse group of people.”

— Miriam Aguirre Ferrer'21

Though there were many technical changes, several students returned from past years to participate in the show another time. Latinx leader Miriam Aguirre Ferrer ’21 participated in Walk it Out for her second year and plans to continue this in her remaining high school years as well.

“The feeling that I got when I walked up on the stage was something unique,” Aguirre Ferrer said. “I loved seeing all the cultures and how some people just owned that stage. I love that everyone in Walk it Out radiated confidence. I loved being with such a diverse group of people.”

However, transitioning from a model during her freshman year into a cultural leader this year had its challenges.

“There’s been a lot more planning [this year],” Aguirre said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself because I really wanted to make sure [that] Latin America was represented in its entirety and all of its beauty. I really wanted to focus on getting people from other Latinx countries because it just didn’t seem fair to represent just Mexico when it’s team Latin America.”

Divinity Myers ’22 walked and danced at Walk it Out for the first time during the 2019 show. She danced in both the Black and East Asia sections, sharing her love for Korean pop in the latter portion of the show.

“It was very nerve-racking but a very cool experience, and it made me feel really good when people cheered my team on,” Myers said. “The crowd was definitely pleased. My favorite part of it was all of the special acts, especially when [Ahijiana Walker-Garcia ’20] sang.”

Bivan Shrestha ’22, another first-time model, performed in the South Asian section of the show as the only Nepali representative.

“The show went really well,” Shrestha said. “It looked way more professional than I thought it would be, and there were so many people and it was really fun. My favorite part about the show is how high quality some of the parts of it were … I was just like, ‘Damn that’s cool.’ It really impressed me.”

With over 200 people in attendance at the show, over $2000 was raised for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Audience members like Emma Gehlbach ’19 felt that the show was well worth their time and money.

“It was really fun to watch, and both myself and the people I went with had a great time,” Gehlbach said. “I really liked seeing all of the different outfits, [and] I thought [they] were all really unique. It was cool to see the different styles of performances across cultures.”

I wanted to provide a space to celebrate diversity in a way that showcased individual students and allowed them to take pride in themselves as being part of minorities.”

— Sophia Chen '19

Though much of Walk it Out’s current leadership team consists of seniors, Chen expects the multicultural fashion show to continue in future years. 

“What’s motivated me to keep continuing the event is that I wanted to provide a space to celebrate diversity in a way that showcased individual students and allowed them to take pride in themselves as being part of minorities,” Chen said. “If we can accomplish that each year, then I consider that a success.”

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About the Writer
Anjali Huynh, Print Managing Editor, Co-Copy Editor

Anjali is a senior and third-year staffer on West Side Story. She is the Print Managing Editor and Co-Copy Editor. When she's not complaining about Oxford...

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Students host third annual ‘Walk It Out’ celebrating diversity