The Patriot In-Depth: Bringing focus to diversity

Students gather together in the library after school to work on homework and talk about their day.

Lauren Fabiszak

Students gather together in the library after school to work on homework and talk about their day.

“You play basketball, right?”

Senior Daylin Armstead, an African American student, just shrugs, as he has heard this misconception many times before.

“At times, diversity isn’t really embraced. New people that I meet think I play basketball or I am a fast runner because of the color of my dark skin. I’m sometimes offended, but other times I just laugh it off,” Armstead said.

Of the 688 students at JC, there are 43 Asians, 36 African Americans, four Hispanics, four multi-racial, and 463 Caucasians. According to the school Registrar Sue Cathell, the other 138 students are unclassified.

These 688 students can further be divided by gender to a total of 312 male students and 376 female students.  In addition, a survey from The Patriot showed that 75 percent of students are involved in athletics, 23.2 percent in music, 21.9 percent in theater, 21 percent in art, 49.1 percent in clubs, and 43.8 percent in Honors Societies. The survey has a +/- 4 percent margin of error.

Diversity: The Heart of JC

JC’s mission statement says that “we cultivate in each student a love of learning, a respect for self, and a sensitivity to others … and prepares them to serve responsibly in shaping a more just and compassionate global society.”

Diversity encompasses everything from racial diversity to diversity in talents, interests, and gender.

According to Vice Principal for Academics Gary Scholl, “diversity is so important that it is embedded in our mission statement.” Although the school’s mission statement doesn’t use the word “diversity,” it does use language like “sensitivity to others” and “preparing students for a global society.”

Because of this, JC tries to promote all kinds of diversity. Through programs like Rachel’s Challenge, the summer reading books like “The Hate List” and “Persepolis,” and guest speakers, the school  tries to encourage acceptance of everyone, school unity, and diversity.

“Mrs. Redfern does the Culture Shock club, which is very active in promoting diversity,” College Counselor Carrie Siemsen said.

“There are some accommodations that have been made to help the international students, such as Mrs. Seiler’s EIS [English for International Students] class, and Mr. Hollin’s U.S. History for International Students class as well,” Siemsen said.

The International Student Program

One of the largest efforts to promote diversity at JC is the International Student Program. The International Student Program brings students from all around the world to attend school at JC.

Coordinator of International Student Programs Sandi Seiler believes nothing but positive things can come from diversity.

“I think it’s super important because we have to mirror what the real world is like. The world has become such a small place, so I feel that this is the best way to show students what the real world will be like,” Seiler said.

In the beginning of the school year, the school had 41 international students and they now have 39. Over the last two or three years, Seiler said that “we have tried to recruit students, but as far as I can rember we have always had [international students].”

As far as JC’s diverse enviorment, “we are on the right track, but there are definitely more things to improve …With all the kids from the international [student] program, I wish we had the opportunity to learn about their backgrounds and culture. We have taken the right steps, but there is room for improvement there as well,” she said.

Social Studies Department Chair Jake Hollin teaches both American and foreign students and also thinks “positively” about the variety of ethnicities at JC.

Diversity at JC affects all races positively, according to Seiler.

“I think both the Americans and foreign students equally benefit from the diversity, just in slightly different ways. For the exchange students, they learn more about family life and the language of the United States, but on the Americans’ side, there is so much to learn from [international students] if they are open to it,” Seiler said.

Teachers and Students reflect on diversity

According to Holllin, “most students are grateful for the strides we have made as a community in becoming more diverse. There have been a number of times where I have seen American students learning from international students and vice versa.  I think having a variety of cultures at JC allows a greater appreciation for a student’s own culture as well.”

However, former German exchange student sophomore Philip Schubart thinks that JC can improve its tolerance of diversity.

“I don’t feel diversity at JC. I do get made fun of, but I am a person who can laugh about himself so it’s sometimes funny,” he said.

In The Patriot survey, 56.2 percent of students say they occasionally work on school assignments with another race, but 48 percent of students never or only eat with a student of another race a few times a month.

Non-minority student sophomore Selena Ranney said she accepts students from all over the world.

“I see people as they are instead of where they are from anyway,” she said.

Moderator of Culture Shock Tiana Redfern feels students don’t respect the diversity of JC.  “Unfortunately, I do not think our student body reacts positively to the diverse environment and this is something I believe we should seek to change. The reaction to people of different races, religions, or cultures is far from positive on many occasions. The comments made around this building would be shocking in many other environments,” Redfern said.

Although Redfern believes the environment at JC is not welcoming towards diversity, she has begun to see some change.

“I see far more students who are interested in embracing and understanding diversity than I did when I arrived six years ago. We are definitely heading in the right direction, but still have a long way to go,” Redfern said.

South Korean exchange student junior Kelly Seo’s outlook is optimistic: “We look different, but we are all the same, because God made us.”

Lauren Fabiszak is an In-Depth Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.