At 6:00pm on September 20, 2021, University of the West held its first in-person community activity of the fall semester, with an event called “LIGHT Celebration,” for the Mid-Autumn Festival. The word “LIGHT” stood for Leadership, Initiative, Giving, Humanistic, and Together. The planning for the event was initiated by President Minh-Hoa Ta when UWest finally re-opened to students in late-August. Leading up to the event, UWest held activities such as planting solar flowers and decorating lanterns in preparation for the Mid-Autumn Festival.
The Moon Festival holiday is a time for family gatherings, which was a perfect theme for UWest to reconnect with students, alumni, faculty, staff, and the community. Officials from the cities of Rosemead, San Gabriel, and Montebello attended, including Rosemead Mayor Polly Low, Rosemead Councilmember Margaret Clark, Executive Director of Rosemead Chamber of Commerce Ray Jan, Executive Director of San Gabriel Chamber of Commerce Sandy Rosco, Montebello Councilmember Salvador Melendez, and President of the Board of Asian Youth Center Ricky Choi. Mayor Polly Low and Councilmember Margaret Clark presented President Ta with a certificate of appreciation to UWest. Board of Trustees member, Dr. Howard Wang, and former President Dr. Sally Chou also attended.
The guest of honor was Abbot of Hsi Lai Temple, Venerable Hui Dong, who gave a blessing and led everyone in attendance—over 130 guests—in a lighting ceremony, where each person lit the candle of the person standing next to him or her. The idea was that when we light a path for others, we light our own path in the process. With each person receiving light from a neighbor in order to pass it on to another neighbor, the entire Founder’s Courtyard at UWest, where the statue of Venerable Master Hsing Yun stood, lit up in bright radiance, signify that there is no darkness we cannot overcome together.
Gift bags were given out to all guests when they arrived. Inside the gift bag included a key with lanyard. During the event, guests were asked to take the key out and put the lanyard over their head. The key was a symbol of UWest’s commitment to the community, that our home was their home, and that the door was always open for them. A band made up of UWest faculty, staff, and alumni played music during the event. Alumni and friends from around the world wishing happy Mid-Autumn Festival to UWest were featuring in a video, which also included Fo Guang Shan Youth Group members dancing and singing 三好歌. Mooncakes and a Vietnamese mochi dessert were served, as well as boba milk tea courtesy of Loose Leaf Boba Company. In addition, raffle prizes in the form of UWest-branded gift cards were given away, with many of the winners being UWest students.
The event was completely sponsored by generous donors such as The International Buddhist Chaplains Foundation (founded by UWest doctorate student Jessica Zheng), Loose Leaf Boba Company (owned by UWest Business graduate student Thomas Liu), Venerable Dang Hou (UWest doctorate student), and Venerable Chang Chan (UWest graduate in the Buddhist Chaplaincy program). President Ta and Peter Zhou (from UWest’s I.T. department) contributed, too. The workers during the event were all volunteers made of students, staff, and faculty.
After being closed for over 18 months, the purpose of this event was to engage students and faculty in a meaningful activity and to reconnect with the community. With the support of so many city officials in attendance, along with representatives from local businesses and institutions and the involvement of many staff, faculty, and students, this celebration was a resounding success. It not only achieved its goals, but it laid the foundation for the 30th anniversary celebration in spring 2022.