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Local girl helps bring Pacific Islander culture to Utah college campus

Pacific Islander Student Association activities
Source: Dixie State University

St, George, UTAH — Julia Faaiu, vice president of the Pacific Islander Student Association, explains what people can learn from the Polynesian community.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month takes place in April every year to celebrate and recognize the history, contribution and achievements of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

This year, the AAPI theme is “Stop AAPI Hate: Solidarity, Community and Celebration.”

The Pacific Islander Student Association (PISA) is a student-run organization that seeks to promote the awareness of Pacific cultures at Dixie State University.

Starting April 2, PISA will be hosting “Aloha Fridays” almost every Friday for a month. According to the PISA website, these events will be from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in the Gardner Courtyard unless otherwise specified.

“Aloha Fridays, it’s basically about the Pacific culture,” said PISA Vice President Julia Faaiu, a senior accounting major from American Samoa. “Each Friday, we are planning on implementing one of those practices into it.”

For its first event, PISA will be giving a language lesson for anyone who wants to learn short phrases or words in different Polynesian languages.

PISA is also collaborating with DSU Dining Services to provide a lunch special, which will be a menu of foods from their culture to give students a taste of what it’s like.

The next event will be April 16 and involve students bringing their own ukuleles to learn fun chords and notes to get a look at the culture’s instruments.

The last event will be April 23 and feature a Samoan workshop with a New Zealand dance group teaching students virtually about the Samoan culture and dances.

“Our goal with this is to let people know about PISA, let them know that we are a thing, that we are coming back and kind of rebuilding,” said PISA President Lilo Clark, a sophomore business major from Salt Lake City. “[We want to] let them understand, ask questions; … we’ll be able to help them understand.”

Clark said the Polynesian community is very family-oriented.

Clark said: “Little things like [family] can make a big influence on others, the way we treat people, the way we act around them, and the way we support them. I think celebrating that and helping people be aware of our culture is just a way we can do good for the community.”

AAPI is important to every Polynesian student on campus for several different reasons.

“Asian American [and] Island Pacific Heritage Month is important to me because it recognizes our history, culture and achievements,” said Faitoto’a Faleao, a senior sports and recreation management major from Lehi. “I like that there’s always something new I learn every day, whether it’s about where my family is from, meeting a new family member, or just getting to know the language and culture better.”

Faleao aid she is grateful to her parents for bringing their family to the United States from American Samoa and for all of the opportunities it created for their current and future family.