May 2021 was Asian Heritage Month. To mark the occasion, we were honoured that a number of Asian-identifying students who have made significant contributions to Hart House agreed to share some of their experiences, accomplishments and stories with us.

Andi Darell Alhakim

“Hart House has been an integral part of my undergraduate experience. For me, Hart House represents a warm environment where peers lift each other up in their collective quest to make a social impact...We’re perhaps familiar with the adage that people may forget one’s name but never how they were treated, and in that instance, I was inspired by their gestures and committed to welcoming others in the same manner when my own leadership opportunity came in the future.

I am proud to be part of a team that has always kept the highest regard for inclusivity, tri-campus engagement, and community impact. What I would attribute to be the most important lesson that I learned from my peers, one which I would carry long beyond university, is the immense worth of a good attitude and sincere compassion. Together, they allow us to continually learn, remain inspired, and seek out ways that we too can give back...a wonderful starting point in our effort to always scale-up our own social impacts.”

Andi Darell is an international student who was awarded the Lester B. Pearson Scholarship. In the 2021-2022 year, Andi is serving as Co-Chair of the Hart House Student Debates & Dialogue Committee after several years of participating in other roles. Andi Darell has also participated in the Hart House Global Commons, the Hart House Debating Club and the Hart House Finnish Exchange. He is entering his fourth year in the Political Science specialist program at U of T Mississauga. Andi Darell identifies as a member of Indonesia’s Javanese and Buginese ethnic groups and, more generally, as being Southeast Asian.

Dhanya Ashley Dass

“It was my hope to seek new opportunities to broaden my horizons as a performer, as an artist and as a leader. Being the Assistant Director of Oh, What a Lovely War! in Hart House Theatre was the best gift I could have ever received as it led to even more opportunities. I was challenged to re-evaluate things bigger than what is on stage. In my work study position with Hart House Theatre, I provided new ideas and created new initiatives. My experience in the Hart House Student Theatre Committee, both as a Steward and as a Co-Chair, gave me perspective. What I find to be amazing is how much effort is put into considering each student as an individual who has something bigger to contribute to the committee.

The biggest achievement was the birth of confidence in me. Through my experiences in Hart House, I learned that the joy comes not only in the applause, but also in the reaching, risking and growing. The theatre is a team effort opportunity for people of all talents, skills and energy and I will endlessly be grateful for the memories that I will cherish forever. Hart House has given me more than I could ever ask for. I was able to discover my passion, restore my sense of identity and meet the most loving, talented and inspiring people. I have worked alongside a unique blend of people and have partaken in an opportunity shared by all: a chance to dare, to spread our wings, to find our talents and inspire, and find a home, as Hart House Theatre most definitely became my home away from home.”

Dhanya Ashley Dass is an international student in her third year of studies towards a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Economics and Sociology at U of T Mississauga. She is of South Indian heritage but she identifies as a Malaysian as she was born and raised in Malaysia.

Lauren Duan

“I lived on campus in my first year at U of T, and Hart House was right behind my building. I would walk by it everyday, occasionally wandering inside out of curiosity. Slowly, I started going to classes at the Fitness Centre, studying at the library, making friends, and eventually became involved in one of the committees. Two years later, I am still finding new ways to get involved, new classes to attend, and new people to meet. I started as a First Year Representative for the Hart House Recreational Athletics and Wellness Committee, and I am now one of the Co-Chairs for the upcoming year.

For me, Hart House is both a place of comfort and exploration. There’s a wonderful community here, and it has truly helped me feel at home in my time at this school. At the same time, the various programs offered at Hart House have given me the opportunity to explore different fields that I’ve been interested in and learn from many diverse perspectives. I am grateful for the invaluable memories I’ve made here and look forward to what is coming next.”

Lauren is an undergraduate student going into her third year as a Health & Disease Specialist at U of T St. George. She identifies as Chinese Canadian.

Rajpreet Sidhu

“I was a Community Ambassador for Hart House during 2018-2019 on the student outreach team. I supported existing Hart House wellness programming including Board Game Café and Get Crafty. In the Community Ambassador role, I was responsible for creating and cultivating safe, welcoming spaces that offered opportunities for students to relax and find connection and meaning in extra and co-curricular spaces. As Hart House is a tri-campus service, I wanted to create long-lasting connections between Hart House and the UTSC community and inform the UTSC community about Hart House services.

Hart House to me represents a place to have fresh new conversations and world-building. There is a commitment to equity and care at Hart House. I remember telling students about how Hart House had a theatre, debate club, great hall, study spaces, knitting clubs, gyms, and even a scuba diving club! The opportunities to be creative are endless and the ability to meet new people and develop long-term relationships is everywhere.

Rajpreet Sidhu is finishing her studies in International Development Studies Co-op and Human Geography at U of T Scarborough. She is a School of Cities Undergraduate Fellow and will be organizing alternative mapping workshops with the Scarborough Studies Collective. Rajpreet is of South Asian, specifically Punjabi, decent.

And there's more...

For the full library of student stories we shared on social media during Asian Heritage Month, visit us on Instagram.