Students start virtual Cultural Fusion District
By Ashley Shah
When the coronavirus pandemic hit home in March, Scripps Ranch High School (SRHS) freshman Justin Angert (now a sophomore) – like most students around the nation – began virtual learning from home.
Left with spare time, Angert used the opportunity in a productive way that would soon lead to a movement and a cultural reset.
“COVID-19, for me, was a blessing in disguise. Throughout my time at home when school shut down, I got really close to my grandma. I would Facetime her every week and she taught me Russian. Soon it became more than that, and she started to share her experiences about growing up in Ukraine,” Angert said. “When my grandma had told me her stories about growing up, it just made me view things from a different lens. It made me empathize and have a better understanding of her.”
Motivated by his grandmother’s stories, Angert reached out to his friend, Grace Li, a sophomore at SRHS, and together they started an organization called the Cultural Fusion District (CFD) to share the experiences of others who have different cultural backgrounds.
“The Cultural Fusion District’s main purpose is to educate others and weed out common stereotypes from cultures,” Angert said.
Angert and Li began a website to further the mission of the CFD that includes blogs that talk about recent events and interviews of people from different cultural backgrounds.
“When we first started the CFD, we had no idea about what was to come. When the Black Lives Matter movement spurred up, we knew that, as an organization that promotes the acceptance of different cultures, that we had to speak up about it. We started our first blog on our website that addressed the issue. From there, we began to take small clips from the website and post them on our Instagram page to get the word out,” Angert said.
Recently, the team has been working on a podcast that will be aired weekly and can be accessed through their website or Instagram page. The first podcast aired on Sept. 14 and was an introduction to the series.
“The podcasts will include live interviews with people from different cultures and their perspectives on issues that their cultures face,” Li said.
The team is hoping to get more people in these interviews and expand their audience.
“Our main goal right now is just to get more people who want to spread awareness about their culture. We want to get more interviews up on the website and have more people on the podcasts sharing their stories,” Angert said.
Angert continues to focus on his goal.
“My main goal is that I want everyone to have that sense of empathy and respect for those with different backgrounds that I now have. Listening to members from different cultures makes you more open to change and growth, and that’s why this is so important,” he said.
Not only is Angert involved in CFD, but at SRHS he is the publicity and recruitment officer for the peer tutoring club, a part of the Red Cross club, and plays water polo and basketball. Outside of school, Angert is the membership vice president for his religious school, Beth Israel.
Li’s goal is to expand and create a community that fosters diversity.
“As a first generation American, I believe that the other cultures that people have should be brought and continued in their communities to create a more accepting place. We need to bring new ideas and make America more culturally sound, and this organization is a step in that direction,” Li said.
Outside of the CFD, Li is an intern for the Be the Change Foundation. At SRHS, Li participates in
soccer, badminton, tennis, the Red Cross club, debate team and Science Olympiad.
The team hopes that in the future they will be able to partner with other organizations and raise money to aid communities that are facing cultural discrimination.
Visit their Instagram page @culturalfusiondistrict.