During the week of April 12, Student Organization of Kean University, Center for Leadership and Service along with the Graduate & Part-time Student Council came together to host Unity Week Kickoff: Culturefest, an event which celebrates the diversity prevalent in the Kean community. The celebration took place inside the MSC Atrium.
Attendees were in for a treat as they were given free food and Kean gear. In the Little Theater is where the bulk of the action took place as several performances from Kean students were streamed to viewers. Also various administrators were on stage and gave speeches.
"We take this week to celebrate our diversity, strength and union between administration, faculty, staff and students," said Lindsey Gonzalez, president of Student Organization.
Due to the nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, safety guidelines were set in place for the event. Spots to register via RSVP on Cougar Link were capped to 25 and it was for on-campus students only. Attendance was recorded for students with an Event Pass.
Facial coverings were required with attendees having their temperatures checked upon entering the building. Screenings via the #CampusClear app had to be shown as well.
Amid her speech, Gonzalez shed light on how Unity Week began.
"Unity Week was an idea born in 1996 during the Student Organization and Student Affairs Leadership Retreat sponsored by Student Organization of Kean University and the Vice President of the Student Affairs Office. The student leaders brainstormed and came up with an innovative idea to unite Kean administrators, staff, faculty and students to celebrate the community's cultural diversity," she said.
The first event took place over 25 years ago with lots of success and has since become a staple in the Kean community. Lindsey shared thoughts on what makes this year's celebration special.
"Unity on our campus has never been more critical than it is right now. Going through a pandemic for over a year has been a life-changing experience for everyone and it's one that we will never forget. But, during a time of insecurity and worry, I know [something] we won't forget is the effort everyone has put to create rules and regulations to keep our campus mobile and the rest of the Kean community safe," Gonzalez continued.
Kean University President Lamont Repollet, Ed.D. also gave his remarks in the Little Theater.
"When I think of unity, I'm thinking about people coming together, parts coming together," said Repollet. "I think this year has been an amazing year for us at Kean University. Amazing in a sense that we've experienced something that no other Kean Cougar or administrator, faculty, staff have experienced."
Repollet shared his feelings on becoming the next Kean president as shutdowns by the coronavirus pandemic were set into place.
"It hit home for me because I was a commissioner of education and I was there with the governor when we decided to close the schools for safety and health reasons," said Repollet. "I was also responsible for helping to rewrite the restart plan as a commissioner of education."
Repollet reflected on breaking the news of the shutdown to his daughter.
"I was also a parent that had to tell their daughter their senior year you cannot go on your trip," he said. "You will not be able to graduate as you normally would and your father had a hand in that."
At the end of his speech, Repollet gave an inspirational message.
"When I looked at the lineup this year for Unity Week, I was happy to see the diverse members of our Kean community coming together with a common goal," Repollet continued. "I was impressed at the conversations with student leaders and saw that unfold. So, when I think about unity, it's the Kean community coming together."