By HARSHAL BHOSALE, Student Life Editor

Students from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and local high schools around Detroit were treated to a two-hour program of global cultural appreciation on Thursday, March 23 as the Office of Student Engagement hosted the annual Global Fest in Kochoff Hall.

The event included a lunch menu of an assortment of cuisines from all over the world, courtesy Picasso Restaurant Group. Cultural student organizations from different countries also had their own tables set up, depicting what they felt best represented their homelands.

The multiple performances lined up included a rap song by the Pakistani Student Association, an Indian classical dance by Pragnya Ramesh and a step-and-stroll performance by the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority. The highlight of the afternoon, though, was surely a performance by Chinese acrobats from Yinchuan, China. The group of four youngsters spanning ages 12 to 19, wowed the 400-plus strong audience with their stunning display of acrobatic skills.

Dexter Overall, Coordinator for Diversity Programs in the Office for Student Engagement, was delighted at the response the event received.

“Global Fest is a traditional event that we have been having for quite a few years now, and is a signature event for OSE. This is the first time that we have done something such as the Chinese Acrobatics, and we are happy that it was so well received,” he said. “The cultural and ethnic student organizations have done a great job with their tables, as did the different Diversity Ambassadors who volunteered for the event. We thank them as well as the UUE [University Union and Events] for logistical support, and the Picasso Group for their food and catering service.”

The OSE had partnered up with the Office for Student Success as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) initiative to bring in 170 students from area high schools for this event. Participating schools included Chandler Park Academy from Harper Woods, Cody Medicine and Community Health Academy and Cody Academy of Public Leadership from Detroit, and Robichaud Senior High School from Dearborn Heights. Also invited were students from Melvindale High School, Melvindale (which although not a UM-Dearborn GEAR-UP partner was nevertheless invited as well). The students had a fun time with ‘scavenger hunts’ at the different student organization tables to learn more about their cultures, including a trivia quiz by the Diversity Ambassadors team.

The Chinese Acrobatic event was interesting in its execution, especially considering the young age of the performers and their long journey to get here.

Greg Kaler of Kramer Entertainment, who manages the troupe in close coordination with his counterpart in Beijing, said that the acrobatics school in Yinchuan, China, coordinates with the agency in Beijing to send troupes on months-long assignments to the US, where they perform daily in different locations across the country. He drives them himself, and said that he had just driven all the way from a performance North Carolina a day before the event. “The hardest part is the travelling. With performances lined up in tight schedules in schools all over, it gets difficult to find some time to rest”, he said, as this correspondent conversed with him after concluding the event; while the children were munching on the delicious multi-cultural dishes courtesy the OSE and Picasso. “They do get paid for this, but the experiences they get out of it are worth far more. Travelling to the other side of the world, meeting and performing in front of hundreds of students, their biggest pleasure is in the adulations and appreciation they receive in return for the months of hard work and preparation they put in.”

Indeed, their efforts were well appreciated, and Global Fest 2017 was a resounding success.