San Jac students showcase diversity through fashion show

A growing trend towards tolerance and acceptance has brought about the celebration of cultural differences.


International Student Organization (ISO) President, Zahra Shihabuddin, said diversity helps his club stand out at San Jacinto College South Campus.


“We don’t focus on the regular cliché ‘let’s play games,’ ‘let’s go here,’” Shihabuddin said. “We’re focused on expanding our horizons; try to get people to see what is beyond their American borders.”


To further this expansion, ISO is co-hosting, along with English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), their second culturally-diverse fashion show.


Shihabuddin credits ISO and Student Government Association (SGA) member Kevin Mungai for conceiving the initial idea for the show.


“For us, we wanted to do something different,” Mungai said. “This is a cultural event.”


Centered on an array of fashion styles, Mungai said the show aims to demonstrate how clothing has different functions in different cultures.


According to Shihabuddin, last year’s fashion show was ISO’s first successful event. The open-mindedness of one participant was “the most beautiful thing” about the show, Shihabuddin said.


“I remember there was this African-American girl who wore the Indian Sari. She was very gorgeous,” Shihabuddin said. “She wore something that is completely different and does not reflect her culture at all. It showed that connection in cultures, and acceptance with one another,” Shihabuddin said.


Meanwhile, Mungai said many other San Jac organizations collaborated with ISO and ESOL in putting on the fashion show, including the Cosmetology Club.


“We try our best to involve other clubs,” Shihabuddin said. “The event tends to be stronger and is more likely to be successful.”


Mathematics Professor and ISO advisor, Zoya Birring, said last year’s Thanksgiving dinner was another of the club’s triumphs.


“We had over 70 people and for some of those international students, this was their first time for traditional Thanksgiving,” Birring said.


Shihabuddin said the dinner actually showed international students how Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.


According to Shihabuddin, students from across the San Jac district travel to South campus, “just to attend our events. It’s kind of like we’re the headquarters and they’re the satellite places.”


Birring said ISO members represent over 50 countries including Nepal, Vietnam, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Mexico.


“We had several committed students,” Birring said. “That’s why we had such a successful year last year.”


Although many ISO members have international roots, American-born students are also involved in the club.


“We have students that have different backgrounds, but then they’re born and raised in America,” Shihabuddin said.


As a first-generation American born in India, Birring said her interest in ISO stems from her own experience of being an international student.


“Honestly, out of all the things I do out of San Jac, this is one of my favorite things to do,” Birring said. “Just to mentor and talk to these young kids, and learn a lot. It’s very fulfilling.”


Shihabuddin said the need for clubs like ISO arises from the College’s diverse student body.


“I’ve been an international student before. I know if I met somebody else, who’s at least close to where I come from, I attach myself to that person,” Shihabuddin said. “I feel like that’s a symbol of home.”


Furthermore, Mungai said diversity, as showcased by the fashion show, helps foster understanding and appreciation for other cultures.


“It’s like walking into a garden,” Mungai said. “A garden has (a) different variety of flowers and plants…. You can relate with maybe the costume. So there’s that relation in saying that ‘hey, you know, we’re not far from each other.’”


The fashion show starts at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 9 in the banquet room of the J.D. Bruce Student Center at South campus.