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Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion welcomes community partners at community luncheon

The event kicked off with a traditional Tongan Kava ceremony.

The office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion kicked off the 2013-14 school year with a Pacific Islander Community Luncheon, held Thursday, August 29.

Green River has emerged as a destination school for North Pierce and South King County's Pacific Islander communities, largely thanks to the influence and efforts of Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Michael Tuncap.

"The first annual Pacific Islander Community Luncheon was created to provide a sacred space for traditional knowledge, indigenous leadership and academic opportunities for Micronesian, Melanesian and Polynesian students and families," explained Tuncap.

Partners welcomed at the community luncheon included South Puget Sound Community College, Olympic College, University of Washington Seattle, University of Washington Tacoma, South Seattle Community College and The Evergreen State College.

Community welcome luncheon
Green River students Mata'ava Mulivai and Nathan Fualaau perform a duet

The program itself was equal parts stunning, spiritual and inspirational. The Friendly Tongan Islands Group and SDA community kicked off the event with a traditional Tongan Kava Ceremony in which everyone in the room actively participated.

In the center of the floor lay a huge intricate hand-woven mat, called a tapa. "The entire village worked to make the tapa," explained Kiana Perreira-Keawekane, a student from Olympic College, "which is much like what we are doing here. We are working together to create something really beautiful."

After presentations and a meal of traditional Hawaiian, Tongan, Samoan and American food (very fitting, considering the diverse crowd present) Green River students Mata'ava Mulivai and Nathan Fualaau performed a duet for the guests. They were followed by Perreira-Keawekane, who played traditional Hawaiian songs on the ukulele. A quick glance back at the listeners showed some guests singing along to the songs, which were beautifully exotic to American ears but joyfully familiar to the Hawaiian listeners.

The Pacific Islander community luncheon is part of the Office of Diversity's ongoing outreach efforts to local schools such as Kent Meridian High School and Mount Baker High School, as well as nonprofit community organizations which include the Northwest Association of Pacific Americans and the Asia Pacific Cultural Center.