Students celebrate Caribbean culture

About 900 Caribbean students gathered on campus this weekend for the Florida Caribbean Student Association’s biannual conference.

It was the first time Florida A&M University hosted the conference since 1999. Last year the FCSA held the conference at the University of Miami.

University of Florida alumnus, Local Farina, who has been involved with CSA for over five years, was overjoyed to learn FAMU was hosting the conference this year because he said the CSA chapters at some schools, such as his alma mater, “lack cohesiveness and solidarity.”

The conference had the highest attendance of the past four years, with participating students from all over Florida as well as from the University of Maryland and Drexel University in Philadelphia.

The main purpose of this conference was for students to get the chance to meet other students with the same background and heritage as themselves while networking and making friends.

The conference started off with a talent show held Friday evening in Lee Hall with 13 participating acts, each from different schools. Students from Caribbean countries such as Trinidad, Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, and Haiti filled Lee Hall. The talent show contestants danced to songs native to each island.

After a night filled with fun and entertainment, the conference continued on Saturday with an opening ceremony and workshops.

The ceremony was dedicated to the advisor and his wife who both have cancer, said Raina Nugent, a chair of the conference committee.

The two workshops focused on “overall personal development,” said Nugent, 19, a junior mechanical engineering student from Miami.

There were sections on etiquette as well as community service during the workshops. The conference also included a service project to gather items and send them to those in need in the respective islands represented in FCSA.

The Saturday events concluded with a party at the Civic Center.

The conference officially came to an end Sunday afternoon, with a picnic and a soccer tournament on the Intramural field.

A number of CSA students said they believe the organization and conference are positive and beneficial.

Gabrielle Smith, 20, a student at Florida State University, is a CSA member. Smith, a mass communications student, said members of her university’s organization discuss issues about their individual countries and campus life.

Smith said the organization serves as a home away from home and she has gained more appreciation for different cultures.

President of FCSA and FAMU senior, Chantell Holder, has been involved with the organization for four years. She said she stays in touch with other students in CSA from all over Florida that she met at other conferences.

Several alumni attend the conferences to meet, network with and share experiences with the undergraduate Caribbean students.

The talent show coordinator, FAMU alumna Sheena Sewell, said she got a job offer while attending the conference three years ago.

Holder said her experiences with FCSA and the conferences have made her a better leader and given her a “broader aspect on life in general.”

Sewell said, “I am now prepared to step into the real world.”

Antoine Wood contributed to this article.