Celebrating AAPI Month at Kettering College

Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is observed to honor and celebrate people of that descent and the contributions they have made and continue to make to the United States. To celebrate AAPI Month at Kettering College, we will tell the stories of our students who identify as AAPI.

Kiana Kreitzer is a Nursing student at Kettering College who will be graduating this July. She has a passion for pediatrics and has already landed a job working at Dayton Children’s Hospital. Her mother’s side of the family is from the island of Samoa, located in the South Pacific about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii. Samoa contains two sides: Western Samoa and American Samoa. Her family is from Apia, Western Samoa.

Kiana (left) with a friend at her mother’s dance studio.

Kiana’s mother and her aunts are the first generation of their family who has lived in the United States, immigrating here when they were children. Kiana was born here in Dayton, where she and her family continue to celebrate their Samoan culture.

Her mother owns a hula studio in Centerville called Olohana’s Polynesian Dance. Kiana says her mom created it to educate the public and spread the aloha spirit through traditional Polynesian dance. A little-known fact Kiana points out is that hula dance is specific to Hawaii, but all of the islands have their own specific version of dance. Her family has luaus—lively parties with dancing, food, and bright colorful decorations—for every major life event such as weddings, graduations, and anniversaries.

She says she and her family have made several close connections in the tri-state area with other Pacific Islanders. Every year, her family hosts a large luau community fundraiser where traditional Islander food is served, and they perform over a dozen Polynesian dances. She says, “With most of our family living either on the islands or just outside of Ohio, the community we’ve gained through the dance studio has made us feel more at home and in touch with our culture.”

Kiana says something she admires about her mother’s dance studio is its diversity and welcoming spirit. She says, “Most people expect an all-Islander crew when they attend our events, but we’re actually multicultural. One of my favorite things about our culture is that we don’t “gatekeep.” Anyone and everyone is welcome, regardless of their heritage.

Kiana (center) dancing at her high school graduation luau.

One of the goals of AAPI Month is to shed light and understanding on issues people of AAPI descent have faced in America. Luckily, Kiana says, “I am blessed to not have experienced any significant challenges as a Samoan living in America. However, it would be nice if people were more familiar with the Polynesian Islands! Most people don’t recognize the country of Samoa until I mention that Dwayne the Rock Johnson is Samoan.”

She says the Samoan culture holds family close to their hearts. Kiana explains that “aiga” means “family.” She says, “Samoans value aiga over everything, after God. My fiancé is not an Islander and has said many times that he’s never met such a loyal and welcoming group of people. The genuine hospitality and willingness to drop everything for your loved ones is something I believe should be celebrated.”

Kiana (right) with a friend performing in a Polynesian dance show.

In Samoan culture, one very important way of celebrating is through food. Kiana says, “Samoans aren’t shy in the kitchen. There is always enough food ready at all times to feed an army just in case anyone were to stop over. Rice is a staple in our home much like bread, eggs, and milk are.”

One of Kiana’s favorite Samoan foods is panikeke, which are deep-fried pancakes. Her family adds bananas to the batter and she says, “Each batch makes enough for probably the whole neighborhood to eat.” She encourages you to try making them!

Kiana Kreitzer is proud of her Samoan culture that welcomes and celebrates others and puts family and God at the center of all they do. As she graduates from Kettering College and begins her nursing career, we are grateful she’s here to bring her heritage, experiences, and insights to this community and beyond.

(Photos Courtesy of Kiana Kreitzer)


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