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Lewisville ISD Hosts 13th Annual Chin Cultural Festival

Hundreds gathered to celebrate the music, fashion and dance of LISD’s Chin community.

Since 2011, Lewisville ISD’s annual Chin Festival has provided the LISD community an opportunity to be immersed in a unique cultural experience, featuring student-led dances, music, fashion and more.

The event, now in its 13th iteration, is designed to honor the Chin students and families that call Lewisville and LISD home. In the early 2000s, the area became a haven for members of Chin State, a region of western Burma (Myanmar), seeking refuge from religious and racial persecution. Many were forced to flee on foot, moving only under the cover of night for hundreds, or even thousands of miles through the mountains of Southeast Asia. Upon reaching UN refugee camps in Malaysia, many Chin eventually immigrated to the United States, with a significant percentage finding a home in Lewisville.

“As I've gotten older, I've realized how much appreciation our culture deserves,” said Chin Club president and Lewisville High School senior Esther Sung. “From traveling to Malaysia, to getting accustomed to the US culture, we have gone through so much as a community. As we continue to thrive, let us also be proud of where we come from.”

Attendees included members of the LISD Board of Trustees, district administration, municipal government officials and hundreds more members of the community. Teachers and staff were recognized for their impact on graduating seniors, and for their efforts in ensuring the continued success of the LISD Chin community.

James Thang, a senior at LHS, thanked LISD teachers and staff for their impact on Chin students. 

“Thank you all for welcoming our culture and making us feel like we belong in LISD. I can’t thank y’all enough for everything that y’all have done for us.”

An early celebration of Chin National Day, held annually on Feb. 20, over 100 Chin students from across LISD participated in this year’s festivities. Performances included traditional Chin dances, a song by the Southridge and Vickery Elementary School choirs, fashion shows from both LHS students and by early childhood students from MIE Baptist Church, several vocal performances, and a keynote presentation by Judson University president Dr. Gene Crume.

Dr. Crume, who first visited with LHS Chin Club students in September, is seeking to build a connection between the LISD Chin and Judson University communities, the latter of which is named for Adoniram Judson, whose missionary work in Burma significantly impacted Chin people in the 1800s. During his speech at the Chin Festival, Dr. Crume emphasized the importance of cultural legacy and heritage, and the importance of each within the Chin community. 

Earlier in the day, Dr. Crume, alongside Judson University trustee Kevin Smith and alumni board member Tracy Miller, met with Chin students, representatives from local Chin churches and LISD administrators to discuss a variety of topics ranging from programs at Judson to the ongoing conflicts in Burma. 

The festival concluded with a recognition of graduating seniors from the Chin community. These seniors, many of whom are among the top in their class, have also been awarded tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships. Several students have also committed to beginning their careers after graduation or will be joining the military. Students were honored together on stage in front of a crowd of over 500 spectators.

Sung, with current Chin Club officers and LISD Chin alumni, closed the event by paying homage to LISD Chief of High Schools Andy Plunkett, thanking him for his impact on the community over the years. 

“On behalf of myself, the Chin Club, and Lewisville ISD, we would like to thank Mr. Plunkett for your never-ending support of the Chin Community in LISD,” expressed Sung. “From the beginning, you have been a champion for us, our families and our culture, and your impact has been immeasurable. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.”

Plunkett was also recently recognized by the Chin American Association, receiving the Chin Community Award during the organization’s 76th annual Chin National Day celebration.

Click here to view photos from the 13th annual Chin Cultural Festival.