Showing Brooks' True Colors

The brisk wind that whipped across campus Thursday morning was a perfect touch to help students proudly wave the flags of countries representing their ancestry after our Flag and Heritage Day Ceremony in chapel on Thursday.

The annual event, formerly observed as United Nations Flag Day, offered an opportunity to "come together to honor our various singularities in culture, and at the same time to honor the fact that we belong together and to one another, regardless of our diversity," said Myles Pember '19 in his speech to the student body opening the festivities the morning of October 18. "Look to your left and right," he urged all assembled in the Frank D. Ashburn Chapel. "While many of us come from the United States, we all have our own stories to tell of tradition and the role they play in each of our respective identities."

See an album of photos from the event at

The 378 students currently at Brooks hail from, or have a family background from, 26 different countries around the world. And about 40 of those students rallied to raise the flag of their heritage — then walk down the aisle in Chapel with it while Pember shared a couple of distinctive facts about each nation — during the ceremony.

"We are rich in diversity," he said to the audience. "And we are even richer in belonging to one another and to this community."

Pember's co-host, International Club Head Trammie Tran '19, took her turn at the podium next. "Flag and Heritage Day is not just a day of celebration, but also a day for us all to reflect upon the past and how we can move forward together, despite our differences, as a global community to bring about progress and peaceful change," she said, before hustling to line up and walk holding the flag of her birthplace, Vietnam. "I believe our Brooks community is in many ways a model of how we can celebrate our diversity and still belong together. That's something the world beyond our campus badly needs."

Dean of Equity and Inclusion Jose Powell called the mood of the celebration "positive, fun, informative, and inclusive."

Indeed, even hours after the festivities, during lunchtime, students were still reflecting on what they'd enjoyed learning from the event — as well as what they were happy to share with others. Londoner Saul Iwowo '22 participated in the ceremony for himself as well as his family. His brother, Jacob Iwowo '18, walked waving the British flag last year.

"I thought it would be good of me to keep it up," said Iwowo. "And I raised the U.K. flag because I wanted to show everyone where I'm from, to show I'm different. I think it's important to show your true colors and where you're from."

Melanie Pestana '20 nodded as he spoke and added, "especially in today's political climate, I love that we can come together and celebrate each others' differences."

Chicagoan Wil Stevens '19 waved the U.S. flag "to show a bit of the diversity at Brooks and that America represents people like me who are American and who look like me," he said. "This event gives everyone a chance to see different sides of people. There were even friends of mine who I didn't know where they were from before today!"

Sydney Robinson '20 walked alongside Stevens representing the U.S.A. in chapel and said that she wanted to participate to make the point that "it doesn't matter what you look like, where you're from, you're from."

One participant in the parade of flags even donned traditional clothing from her country: Hungary. French teacher Andrea Medved grew up in Budapest, and walked into chapel waving the flag with two of Brooks' exchange students from Deák Ferenc high school in Szeged, Hungary.

This was her first flag celebration at Brooks, and she loved every minute of it. "It's really awesome because we come from so many different places and cultures," said Medved. "We have to cherish this diversity. The more we talk about it, and celebrate it, the better!

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