At Breakthrough Birmingham, we’re about sparking curiosity, one scholar, teaching fellow, and staff member at a time. We’re on a mission to create waves of impact on educational inequity across Alabama by diving headfirst into our community’s unique needs. We believe celebrating diversity is crucial. We do this by highlighting diversity through Culture Nights, promoting exposure to new ideas, beliefs, cuisine, and more! 

We bake exposure experiences into Breakthrough Birmingham. We partner with families, local businesses, and universities to bring diverse experiences to our scholars. But after observing, we’ve noticed a more profound impact.   

Enter Ruchi Soparawala, a mentor of our XU scholars and supporter of our programs. Ruchi, a recent graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has been involved with Breakthrough Birmingham for about two years. First, she was a teaching fellow; now, she has taken a role as a mentor to ensure our scholars can be supported as they pursue post-secondary options. Ruchi identifies closely with her Indian culture and heritage and expressed her enjoyment of participating in events like Culture Night. Now, Ruchi is moving into her career as an educator through our partner, TFA Alabama. 

Ruchi says, “BTB is why she started learning about all the different cultures, and it has been useful for scholars and her wanting to work with students in our diverse community.” 

When I sat down with Ruchi, she told me about the series of events that take place at a Culture Night. Ruchi explained that the evening starts with a meal and fellowship because “it’s such an easy way to build a connection with others; all cultures gather for meals,” she expressed. After mingling with students and families over a meal, the participants are ushered into a time of learning and enrichment from our local partners or maybe even a family or scholar whose culture we are learning about. Then, it’s time for an upbeat and hands-on activity. Ruchi discussed the variety of activities scholars can partake in, such as cultural dance, games, or maybe even a performance! 

Video: UAB Dance Club (Blazaraas) partnering with BTB performs a cultural dance

One thing is for sure: these nights do not just impact the scholar. Culture Nights leave a lasting impact on our staff as well. Ruchi glowed as she shared how this has deeply impacted her in getting to share her cultural identity with her scholars and learn of theirs as well. 

Ruchi expressed, “Culture Nights are nights of celebration that enrich my understanding of the world and my place in it. Through the sharing of games, dances, and food from different cultures, I am able to celebrate the beauty of our diversity while appreciating the common humanity that makes Breakthrough Birmingham a united family.

How awesome is that? Celebrating our diverse world and identities pulls our Breakthrough community together more and more as we take time to invest in trading spaces with our peers and grow in our understanding of other’s experiences.

Photo: Scholar eating a meal at a Culture Night

We found that in order to celebrate cultural diversity, we can “engage in cultural exchange by attending cultural festivals, visiting cultural centers, and participating in events that celebrate diversity,” according to a LinkedIn article. Our aim for these nights is to provide a safe space for our scholars, staff, and families to learn more about our diverse world and find their place in it.

We know that exposure is the key to bridging the gaps in our community. The more we learn and grow, the more interconnected and relational we become. Ruchi’s story leaves us excited to continue assembling high-impact experiences like Culture Night. 

Does this sound like something you want to be a part of? You can contact someone on our team, join our newsletter, or donate today to continue supporting high-impact experiences for our scholars. 

Breakthrough Birmingham works with highly motivated, traditionally underrepresented students to achieve post-secondary success while also empowering aspiring leaders to become the next generation of educators and advocates. We envision supporting robust transformational learning communities, where equitable access to excellent opportunities propels aspiring students on their path to college and aspiring teachers on their path to the classroom. Our scholars today will be the decision-makers in their communities tomorrow.” 


Written by: Caroline Kendrick, Communications Associate

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