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Fourth year Faculty of Arts student Allister De Castro.

Fourth year Faculty of Arts student Allister De Castro.

Realizing the dream of diversity and belonging: Asian Heritage Month feature

For student Allisther De Castro, the deeply personal celebration also means challenging stereotypes and addressing discrimination

May 3, 2024 — 

For Allisther De Castro, Asian Heritage Month is a time of celebration. She also feels we should use it as a “chance to challenge stereotypes and educate ourselves and others about the complexity and richness of Asian identities.”

The fourth year Faculty of Arts student says she loves to go to events held by different Filipino organizations, “trying out food that I grew up eating with my family and relatives back home.”

Born in Manila, Philippines, De Castro immigrated to Canada with her mother and father and younger sister Audrey in 2019. They are planning to apply for citizenship in the next few months, which is very exciting, says De Castro. In fact, it was always her parents’ dream.

Fourth year Faculty of Arts student Allister De Castro with her family-1

Allisther De Castro with her family.

“I’m really grateful for people helping our family immigrate to Canada because my parents have been wanting to immigrate to a different country with more opportunities for my sister and I,” she explains. “It was a very significant milestone.”

Asian Heritage Month holds a deep personal significance for her. “This month is a celebration of diversity, belonging and the shared journey of immigrants like myself towards building a more vibrant and inclusive Canada,” she says.

See more about Asian Heritage Month at UM.

Last year, Allisther wanted to build on her own experience and was moved to advocate for others as well. She worked to create a new UMSU community position, the Racialized Students’ Representative (which she held this year), and helped found the Racial Equity and Inclusion Alliance (REIA), a student-led community group for racialized students at UM.

On Mar. 31, REIA hosted its first Empowerment Gala to recognize the diverse cultures at UM. The gala awarded racialized students and staff based on accomplishments in athletics and sportsmanship, academics, visual and performing arts, and advocacy and representation. 


De Castro is graduating from the Faculty of Arts with a major in political studies major and a minor in business management.

Her experience at UM influenced her goals and how she imagines her future — and how her future might help to change the world. Her goal is to get into law school and possibly do a master’s degree in international relations as well.

It’s been inspiring to learn about politics and diplomacy both in the classroom and through her advocacy work as a student rep.

“What really captivated me was [learning] to understand the world around me and why it is the way it is,” De Castro notes. And she’s also helping to make it better.

In her own words: Allisther De Castro on openness to learning, challenging stereotypes, addressing discrimination

As a student, I would urge the wider university community to approach Asian Heritage Month with an open mind and a willingness to learn and engage.

There’s just so many things that I’ve experienced and my friends who are also Asians have experienced that were disappointing and frustrating since it’s targeted to us as Asians.  

So Asian Heritage Month is not just about celebration, but it’s also about addressing issues of discrimination, xenophobia and racism that we continue to face.

It’s important to recognize that there are different stereotypes and misconceptions about Asians and Asian Canadians that still exist.  

So for this month we should use it as a chance to challenge these stereotypes and educate ourselves and others about the complexity and richness of Asian identities. And lastly, it is important to amplify different voices and create spaces for meaningful dialogue and exchange within a university.

See more about Asian Heritage Month at UM.

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