Guest essay: The importance of community – a message from Lincoln’s Indian Student Union


Leela Moreno

Kareena Modha, Jasmine Weesner, and Alyssia Menezes, founders of the Indian Student Union at Lincoln.

I never realized how much I missed connecting with people of my Indian culture until I had a conversation with my friend Kareena about our families and our cultures. Since Lincoln is a predominantly white school, I haven’t had many interactions like this with fellow Indian students in my classes. We talked about our mutual appreciation for Dahl and Rotis, and agreed that, in a school like Lincoln, it’s easy for minority cultures to be overlooked and undervalued…

After this conversation, I realized that other Indian students at Lincoln are also missing this shared sense of community, especially after a whole year of online school. These Indian students are navigating through Lincoln without the possibility of connecting with one another.

A day after that interaction, I decided to found Indian Student Union with Kareena Modha and Jasmine Weesner. 

At our first meeting, we were joined by about 10 other Indian students at Lincoln. We discussed where we were from, ate some Indian snacks and brainstormed plans for events we could host. One of the first celebrations that came to mind was Diwali, the Festival of Light. This year, Diwali will last from Nov. 2-6, during which many Indians will light candles and oil lamps, and dress up in Indian garments and eat mithai (sweets) and other Indian foods. The festival itself symbolizes “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance” (Celebrate Diwali, National Geographic Society p. 31). Our student union decided that it would be a good way to introduce Lincoln to Indian culture. 

If you are interested in celebrating Diwali, we recommend supporting local Indian restaurants and trying out some great holiday food (see our list below), or lighting candles and lamps. In the future, we hope to have a cultural night where we watch Indian movies as a Lincoln community. We also hope to bring in a mehndi (henna) artist.

Indian Student Union will continue to bring together the Indian student body at Lincoln and celebrate our culture. If you identify as Indian, we encourage you to join our union.


Alyssia Menezes ([email protected]

Kareena Modha ([email protected])

Jasmine Weesner ([email protected]


Amazing Indian Restaurants in PDX: 

Bollywood Theater:

Dil Se Indian Cuisine:

Choice of India: