Say nǐ hǎo to the Eastern Culture and Mandarin Club


Photo courtesy of Kim Ou-Yang

Eastern Culture and Mandarin Club’s 2023 midterm ramen and hot chocolate sale

Trying new foods, selling chocolate bars and visiting the zoo may seem to have nothing in common, but for the Eastern Culture and Mandarin Club they are simply part of their yearly activities.

EC+M started around 10 years ago with the name Asian Awareness Club. Assistant Principal Mabel Huynh, then a chemistry teacher and one of the only Asian teachers at the time, was asked to assist in the formation of a club to promote Asian awareness throughout WHS. Huynh helped co-advise this club with her teacher mentor and fellow science teacher, Michael Sieler, hosting monthly meetings with take-out food from different Asian cultures, as well as yearly field trips to Chinatown.

When Mandarin Teacher Kim Ou-Yang, or Laoshi as her students call her, came to WHS and started the Mandarin program after teaching in Scotch Plains, she took over the club, now known as the Eastern Culture and Mandarin Club. The club continued to take yearly trips to Chinatown and visit local Asian supermarkets and Chinese restaurants.

They have also sold Chinese food and promoted numerous other events to spread knowledge of East Asian culture. The club still holds monthly meetings where they try new foods, make candy sushi and plan fundraising events.

Senior Juliana Ripper joined the club during her freshman year as a way to make friends, but soon discovered all that the club has to offer. “My favorite part of being in the Mandarin club is getting to try all the foods that Laoshi brings in for us. She’s really passionate about making sure we’re exposed to many different parts of East Asian culture,” said Ripper.

Aside from their monthly meetings, one of the club’s main attractions is the annual end-of-year field trip. Last year, they visited the Turtle Back Zoo to see the Asian exhibit. Senior and Club President Madison Wright said, “It was a great experience… we saw a red panda, and then we went to a dim sum place and had a lot of food.”

Many WHS students are aware of this club because of their annual ramen and hot chocolate sales during midterms and finals, which have become beloved traditions thanks to the many eager customers at WHS.

As a response to the pandemic, the club held Zoom meetings, and later in lockdown they held a fundraiser for Lunar New Year, where they set up in front of the school and sold food from Panda Express, donating the profits to the World Wildlife Fund, a charity for endangered species conservation. “We actually had so much leftover food that we were able to donate to a local food kitchen,” said Ou-Yang.

This year the club sold Gertrude Hawk chocolate bars to fundraise for their 2023 field trip. However, in addition to its initial purpose, the club’s fundraising success allowed them to put the money to additional use. Ou-Yang said, “We made enough profits that we should be able to donate to one of the nonprofits which help with Syria and Turkey earthquake victims.”

Ou-Yang encourages all interested students to join EC+M, even if they do not take Mandarin or have no Asian background. Students interested in joining can join the Google Classroom with code u4tq7bl. To keep up with the club’s fundraising, chances to try new foods and fun student trips, follow their Instagram @ecmandarinclub.