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Students from Check One discuss the necessity of creating an executive committee Credit: Thando Ally , Thando Ally

Last night, Penn students came together over their ability to check more than one box under “Ethnicity” on their college applications.

College junior Chris Cruz and Engineering sophomore Ibrahim Ayub hosted a general body meeting to relaunch Check One, a multiracial and multicultural organization that has not met for about a decade on Penn’s campus after being founded in 1995.

Cruz, who served as chair of the United Minorities Council on its previous board, said the purpose of relaunching Check One was to meet a “pressing demand for a space to be created for the multicultural and multiracial community as a great number of Americans identify as multiracial.”

The meeting — which was dubbed “So …What are You?” — attracted a diverse group of Penn students who identified themselves as belonging to more than one ethnicity or culture.

Wharton and College sophomore Stephanie Vabre said she was immediately drawn to the idea of this club.

“My mom is from Korea, my father is French-Haitian and I was born and raised in New Jersey,” Vabre said. “At Penn, however, everyone identifies me as Asian.”

Similarly, College freshman Nadia Laher, who self-identifies as Yemeni and South-African Indian, was excited to see an event targeted directly at multiracial or multicultural individuals at Penn.

“I wanted to see what a group for mixed kids would be like,” she said.

When Check One first fell under the umbrella of the UMC in the fall of 1998, “its focus was initially on biculturalism,” Cruz explained. “Today, our focus is on multiculturalism and multi-ethnicity.”

Ayub added that “there are many cultural groups at Penn, but there aren’t any multicultural groups, so this is basically a space for dialogue, awareness, support and celebration for multicultural students.”

The meeting began with a game during which each student was given a list of crossed-out questions with only one question remaining: “So …What are you?”

The attendees proceeded to explain to one another what made them multicultural or multiracial, which prompted a discussion of the meaning of the question.

College junior Erich Reimer said he receives the question about his mixed ethnicity frequently.

“People have always approached me with ‘so, what are you,’ guessing anything from Mexican to Russian,” he said.

Wharton and Nursing junior Ben Hardy said he has experienced similar questions.

“There definitely is not enough awareness of the fact that people can identify with more than one race,” he said.

The general body meeting concluded with an overview of the organization’s goals and objectives over the next year.

Among other things, Ayub hopes the group can host a mixed heritage week next year.

Cruz added that they have been reaching out to various multicultural and multiracial communities and centers across the country, such as the Mixed Heritage Center and Project Race.

“We want to not only raise awareness but also provide support to the multiracial community here,” Ayub said. “It’s definitely something that Penn needs.”

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