NEWS: AAA begins strong as enthusiastic leaders strive for greatness


Kanwerdeep Sarkaria

AAA members during September 29 meeting

The Asian-American Association club had its first meeting this year during Homecoming Week with great results, drawing over 40 students from every grade level. With a wide range of activities–from potlucks to karaoke– AAA (not the insurance company) opens its doors to all students willing to learn, listen, and share. 

AAA leaders Chloe Ganaden, Leslie Valerio, Jena Ecang, Nathan Arches, and Ryan Nguyen are striving to create a space in Plainfield East High School where students can discuss aspects of Asian culture, while also enjoying a multitude of activities and foods. 

“I think AAA–especially the leaders–make [joining] really easy with different activities and with gaining new relations with different people,” club member Joshua Ramirez said. Each meeting begins with cultural sharing time in the form of slide presentations, where specific aspects of Asian culture are highlighted. 

Although the club is devoted to defining Asian culture, AAA opens its arms to all students. When asked about students who may feel eager to join but are too shy or might not have friends in the club, Co-leader Nathan Arches said, “I totally understand, especially because it’s a cultural club, and a lot of people think you have to be Asian to join but you really don’t. You don’t even have to stay for the whole thing, you can hop in for a quick snack or to see what’s going on. There’s really no commitment. You can join the google classroom to see our announcements. We’re all pretty welcoming in general.” 

In response to the same question, club sponsor Kanwerdeep Sarkaria said, “The beauty of the club is that you don’t necessarily have to be Asian [to join], you just have to be someone who enjoys learning and being a part of something that is very new.”

Sarkaria expressed what makes the club a unique experience, “I think one of the things that I hope that I can help encourage the continuation of is helping kids learn about different parts of the world. A lot of these places that we’re talking about within the club are places that almost feel abstract because they’re so far away and not many people are going to hop on a plane and to go to the Philippines or India or go to Pakistan; but it gives them a glimpse of inside of maybe one aspect or small part of the culture which is one more thing than they knew when they first walked in.”

In regards to food, club sponsor Elizabeth Venezio said, “If you think about what this looks like around the world, with communities and cultures around the world, what’s the common denominator that brings people together? It’s the food. It’s the celebration of eating and spending time together.” 

The club seems to be looking towards the horizon as the leaders of AAA are enthusiastic to grow bigger and better. Co-leader Jena Ecang said, “Something I look forward to in the club is a fashion show for all the cultural clubs to join and represent their heritage. I really want to give everyone a chance to show parts of their culture.” Ecang said, “AAA is very important to me because many people aren’t really given a chance to learn and display their heritage and with many of the cultural clubs at East, it grants many people a safe space to be more connected.”

Sarkaria said, “I think learning is like the big thing that I’m looking forward to. It’s awesome because I’ve never really claimed to be the smartest person in the room, so to have kids come in and educate me on a topic [is great] and the beautiful thing is that it’s in my classroom so I don’t have to go anywhere.”

As Sarkaria said, “Come out to AAA, learn about other cultures, it’s a very accepting group of people. I think with a club that’s fairly new, it’s hitting the ground floor running. Especially for freshmen, I want freshman numbers to be high because at the end of the day they can learn something in a safe space where they can have fun and where they can enjoy their time.”

Plainfield East provides a unique experience for students where the value of education comes from building connections with others, and AAA devotes its energy to ensuring that connection is made. Venezio had said it best, “It truly is a club where we’re learning from one another.” 

Students interested in joining AAA can find more information on the club’s Google Classroom as well as their Instagram: @pehstriplea. Meets are held on selected Thursdays in room 405 from 2:30 to 3:30pm.