Drawing awareness towards the experiences of mixed heritage students creates a space within the Andover community for students to share their stories and celebrate their identities, according to Izzy Torio ’22, Board Member of MOSAIC, Andover’s Mixed Heritage Affinity Group. For Camila McGinley ’23, member of MOSAIC, Mixed Heritage Awareness Week (MHAW) gives her the opportunity to deeply explore her mixed heritage.
“MHAW is important because it challenges the way that students and faculty view the world by giving mixed people a voice, it allows us to share our unique, individual, complex, and beautiful experience as a mixed person. Even as a mixed person, I feel that I learn so much during MHAW and my understanding of what it means being mixed improves during MHAW. MHAW allows for mixed students to celebrate our identity and bring our community closer together,” wrote McGinley in an email to The Phillipian.
MOSAIC will celebrate Mixed Heritage Awareness week through a photo essay, alumni panels, and Zoom meetings. According to Natasha Muromcew ’22, a board member of MOSAIC, this is the eighth year of Andover students participating in the photo essay, in which students of mixed heritage may upload their photos and share what their mixed identity means to them. Through these activities, they hope to achieve a stronger sense of community and to help students of mixed heritage find a place at Andover.
“I think that a lot of mixed kids feel like they don’t have a specific place at Andover and [these events] give them a place, a little spotlight, and shows the community that we are,” said Muromcew.
Due to a remote start to the Winter Term, MOSAIC has had to adapt their programming to fit a virtual framework, such as hosting meetings on Zoom. However, the online platforms have met success. The photo essay received more applicants this year, according to Esme Huh ’22, a member of MOSAIC, and Torio stressed that without Zoom, the group would have been unable to assemble alumni from all over the world for a panel.
“We had an alumni panel that I was able to attend. As a senior, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it’s like to navigate the world beyond Andover as someone of mixed heritage and getting to hear the experiences and advice of Andover grads was really inspiring,” Torio wrote in an email to The Phillipian.
Mixed heritage students have also worked to strengthen its community through MCMP, the Mixed Heritage Mentoring Program, which was established this year. Upperclassmen and lowerclassmen are paired together as mentors and mentees, and are encouraged to check in with one another on a bi-weekly basis via text or Zoom. McGinley, who is on the board of MCMP, believes that finding a mixed heritage community on campus has allowed her to embrace her fluid identity.
“Being mixed heritage to me always felt like I was never being enough of my ethnicities, and I didn’t really have a community. I think that for so long I tried to fit myself into a box. But, coming to Andover really helped me understand that being mixed heritage means to have a complex but beautiful identity… While before I felt ashamed of this fluid spectrum of how I identify, I’ve learned to love it because it gives me an unique experience on how I view the world,” wrote McGinley.
Huh echoed this sentiment of fluidity, sharing that her mixed heritage gives her the opportunity to pave her own path and lean into both sides of her identity. Huh believes raising awareness to mixed heritage experiences is important as the number of mixed heritage people in the population itself grows.
“As we see more and more people becoming comfortable with interracial relationships and marriages, we want to create awareness and show that being mixed heritage is not as simple as it seems. And while there are a lot of struggles that come with being mixed heritage, there are also a lot of cool parts. We try to make sure to see and understand both sides, and hopefully by raising awareness for it, people that may not even be mixed heritage will start to understand and become more of an ally and support those who are,” said Huh.