Donor establishes fund to increase awareness of Asian culture at Lab

Asian+Students+Association+President+Zara+Baig+speaks+to+parents+and+faculty+in+a+commencement+ceremony+May+11+about+the+creation+of+the+Asian+Culture+Fund.+She+reiterated+her+excitement+for+the+increased+possibilities+the+fund+offers+to+increase+awareness+of+Asian+culture+at+Lab.+

Matthew McGehee

Asian Students’ Association President Zara Baig speaks to parents and faculty in a commencement ceremony May 11 about the creation of the Asian Culture Fund. She reiterated her excitement for the increased possibilities the fund offers to increase awareness of Asian culture at Lab.

Audrey Park, Managing Editor

An anonymous family has donated a $100,000 investment to create the Asian Culture Fund with the mission of increasing the awareness and presence of Asian culture within the Laboratory Schools. Asian American members of the Lab community are looking forward to and are enthusiastic about the fund.
A commencement ceremony was hosted in Ida Noyes Hall May 10 for Lab parents and faculty members to attend.
To coincide with the creation of the fund, the donor family will match additional donations to the fund up to $50,000. If the challenge is matched to its maximum, the fund will have $200,000 by the start of the 2022-23 school year.
Priya Laroia, assistant director of annual giving and alumni relations, said at the event that the fund is an opportunity for Lab’s community of Asian Americans and allies to elevate Asian culture.
“This is the next step to ensuring every Asian American feels pride and comfort in who they are,” Ms. Laroia said. “It is the next step in every Lab student understanding the beauty and complexity of Asian heritage and Asian American history.”
Ms. Laroia addressed the timeliness surrounding the fund’s creation and the surge of national and local prejudice Asian Americans are encountering.
“Asian Americans are facing elevated levels of prejudice, hate and abuse. School children are being bullied and teased and isolated,” she said in an interview.
She said the increase of anti-Asian hate crimes is the unfortunate circumstance of the urgency for the fund.

It is the next step in every Lab student understanding the beauty and complexity of Asian heritage and Asian American history.”

— Priya Laroia, alumni relations and development

Funds will be allocated by a committee comprised of teachers and Lab faculty to clubs, projects and programs that will increase awareness about Asian culture at Lab. Committee member Heather Tamburo, associate director of annual giving and alumni relations, said this was the fairest way they could distribute the funds necessary to create change.
Middle school teacher and committee member Erica Cheung, a 1995 U-High alumna, spoke at the ceremony. She said as someone who identifies as Asian American she is excited to engage the middle school community in conversations, experiences and cultural performances.
High school Chinese teacher Xiaoli Zhou expressed a similar interest and said she also hopes to lower the overall cost of the high school exchange trips to China, so the option is available to more families at Lab.
Zara Baig, president of the Asian Students’ Association, also spoke at the event, and said she is excited to elaborate on the impacts her club has made already.
She said, “With the Asian cultural fund, even more will be possible. As members of ASA, we are very grateful for the support and excited for the possibilities that will now be in reach.”
Parents who attended the event were excited about the fund and said it was long overdue.
Audris Wong, mother to two children at Lab said, “Many kids feel as though their Asian culture is something that just happens within their home, and would love to connect with other students and other families to show how diverse Asian culture is just within itself.”
Others were at the event to learn more about the fund.
Nathaniel Robinson, father to two lower school children, said by attending the ceremony he hoped to learn if it aligned with his objectives regarding his children learning about their Asian heritage.