Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018
Retro Radiothon: ‘For future generations’

‘See the World’ challenge gives international students platform to show off their culture

Mar 26, 2018
Photo by: Grace King IW student athletes and international students showed off their soccer skills and interacted with Mt. Pleasant youth during the “See the World” challenge Saturday.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Iowa Wesleyan University students Trinity Hudson, Desmonica Huffman and Rhazsanee Simmons were honored to be asked to perform the step routine they arranged for Black History Month in February again during Retro Radiothon on Saturday, March 24.

With flags from the 29 nations represented at Iowa Wesleyan University (IW) lining Ruble Arena during the “See the World” challenge, the three underclassmen were the first to take the stage that afternoon to present a dance important to the black community.

With the region tuned into KILJ radio and people around the world plugging into IW’s social media as the university worked toward raising $1 million for continued education, the student’s routine speaks to the university’s desire to embrace the diversity represented.

Ending with a chorus of “Black Lives Matter,” Huffman said that being asked to do this specific routine made her feel heard.

“They didn’t ask us to do just another step,” Huffman said. “They asked us to do the step (we performed) from Black History Month.”

“This is a predominantly white campus and community,” Hudson added. “To put a message in it and show our pride and have people in a white community embrace that (shows) they want people to understand different cultures.”

As the three sat in the stands to the right of the stage, they were breathless. It’s definitely a sport in itself, they all agreed. Hudson said that when she was growing up in Chicago, she got involved in dancing and learned about the history of step in the black community. Knowing how significant stepping is, Hudson wanted other students on campus to learn about it too.

Step is a dance form that gained momentum in the early 20th Century, with origins going back to Africa. In stepping, the body is used to make sounds through clapping, stomping and spoken word.

“This is me showing my black pride,” Hudson said. “It’s not limited to gang banging … We come from kings and queens.”

Huffman and Simmons nodded their heads in agreement. “I don’t think I have to say anything,” Simmons said. “It’s also just fun,” she added.

Rakshya Shrestha took the stage later during the “See the World” challenge, representing her country of Nepal. Adored in a long skirt and a flowing sari, Shrestha said she agreed to perform to show her culture.

In her second year at IW, Shrestha has seen the ways the university is culturally diverse and works with international students to ensure they are making progress by connecting with the student body. Faculty and staff also work with students to ensure they are staying on top of their studies, with some international students having a limited English vocabulary when they first step foot on campus.

In between performances, students from Italy, Mexico and Australia were busy kicking a soccer ball around with children from Mt. Pleasant who excitedly chased after them. Jake O’frell, from Sydney, Australia, said that they asked organizers of “See the World” if they could demonstrate their soccer skills offstage to create a more casual atmosphere.

O’frell also wanted kids to feel free to join in and learn more about soccer, a sport he considers to be underrecognized in the U.S. “Especially in small-town Iowa to have the opportunity to share our culture is just as much fun,” O’frell said.

Knowing Mt. Pleasant was rallying around the university this weekend during Retro Radiothon gave him more passion to share soccer with the community.

“It’s such a small university,” O’frell said. “The community makes us who we are. I’m sure we can repay their generosity in the future.”

There are 29 countries represented at IW through their international students. DeWayne Frazier, Vice President for Academic Affairs, said that the university has partnerships in every continent of the world to recruit students.

Recently on a trip to Mauritius, an island off Madagascar, Frazier said he turned a corner and saw a magazine stand that had the National Geographic magazine with Peggy Whitson’s face on the cover. Whitson is a record-breaking NASA astronaut who graduated from IW.

“I can’t get away from it. Iowa Wesleyan follows me around the world,” Frazier said.

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