All the Different Faces

An inside look at the diversity of the WBHS students

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Alison Zywicki

Daphne Cantuba and Kaylin Mahoney working in AP Studio Art together

Oakland county has a significantly diverse population of citizens with a large Jewish community, a large community of African Americans and Middle Easterners, and a smaller, but well-rounded Asian community. This diversity translates into the diversity of the West Bloomfield High School community. WBHS’ diversity includes Israeli, Chaldean, Indian, Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabians, Palestinians, Vietnamese, Native American, Latino, European backgrounds and much more. There is also a large religious diversity that includes Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim to Christian, Agnostic, Atheists, and many others. WBHS is a melting pot of the 21 century, just like how New York was in the early 1900’s due to all the immigration. This school offers a wide variety of people to meet and mingle with, massive exposure to different cultures, and a great ability to learn about acceptance and corporation.  The question is, how many of  WBHS students take up this opportunity to meet people outside of their cultural/ethnic/religious groups?

Senior Jason Pauli, states “I have met a very wide range of people; people of different genders, religious groups, ethnic groups and sexual orientation.” WBHS features clubs that are diverse in their members, as well as specific clubs that are geared toward specific  groups. This includes a Jewish Club, clubs surrounding the language classes, African American Awareness Club (AAA), Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), and clubs or activities like the Drama Department, Marching Band, Sports, Choirs, National Honors Society (NHS), Orchestra, and Student Council that have a diverse group of students involved. This diversity in students and all the clubs/activities they can do, gives the students of WBHS a great way to meet, expand their surroundings and knowledge, and get involved in peer interaction. Senior, Daphne Cantuba agrees that, “it made me more open minded because I got to learn and experience different cultures and made me realize that social media is wrong about certain cultures.”

The American Council of Education stresses the importance of this opportunity: “Diversity enriches the educational experience. We learn from those whose experiences, beliefs, and perspectives are different from our own, and these lessons can be taught best in a richly diverse intellectual and social environment. It promotes personal growth…diversity challenges stereotyped preconceptions; it encourages critical thinking; and it helps students learn to communicate effectively with people of varied backgrounds.” Diversity  is important to students; without it there would never be a real life experience to outside cultures outside their own. Principal Thomas Shelton adds that, “I think that our job as a school is to prepare students for the world they are going into. So giving students an exposure to diversity in high school, it better prepares them for after high school.”

Sophomores in Mrs. McQullian's 1st hour American Lit class.
Sophomores in Mrs. McQullian’s 1st hour American Lit class.

There can also be harm and separation with regard to division at WBHS. Cantuba states, “Look at the lunch tables. They are all segregated, but not just by race, but by intelligence or wealth. Some people avoid the lunchroom all together.” Junior Jordan Cantalon adds that, “Yeah, because they make all these clubs like AAA, the Jewish Club and I think it is rude to have clubs that segregate us like that, I mean we are one school.” Some people feel that the diversity gives opportunities to the students to learn and expand their knowledge, but nothing else in becoming a community. “Diversity, at least in the short run, seems to bring out the turtle in all of us,” states writer Robert Putnam. Micheal Jonas, another writer, wrote an article on a study of diversity in birds and states “Birds of different feathers may sometimes flock together, but they are also less likely to look out for one another.”  That seems to be slightly true for humans too. Shelton states that, “what I generally see is that students are able to work in cooperative groups, in classes, with people that are different from them. Yet during common time they stay with people similar to them.”  He adds that “I think people need the opportunity to explore their own identity, as well has having those social interactions with those who are different then them. I believe if an African American wanted to join the Jewish club, that would be OK and that is what is important.”

Sophomores of different backgrounds in Mr. Smith's science class talking.
Sophomores of different backgrounds in Mr. Smith’s science class talking.

WBHS students have more opportunities than most Michigan public schools with the diversity we have. Shelton states that, “I think diversity is a big word. I think about it as people of all different backgrounds and life experiences working together.”  That is basically what we have at WBHS and this was highlighted this year during the 2013 Challenge Day that allowed students of all different backgrounds (ethnic, religious and wealth) and life experiences (based off their backgrounds), to come together to become one and realize that despite our differences, we are all that same. What does this day actually do? Does it truly bring us together as a community? Does it increase our awareness of our school’s diversity? Or does it leave our students still “in the dark? (check this out with Spectrum’s Challenge Day article, ‘Be the Change You Want to See’). Sophomore Perry Quarker states, “diversity is never the center of any problems in WBHS. Sure, there are students that are hopelessly immature, but where they come from doesn’t determine that, thus making diversity no issue whatsoever.” And he adds. “I bet the only way a student can take advantage of diversity is by becoming friends with all of the different people around them.”

West Bloomfield is not only a melting pot of races, ethnic backgrounds, religions and social backgrounds. There is a wide variety of diversity in fashion sense, music choice, sexual orientation and personalities. Quarker states,”When it comes to fashion, the look of attire is never the same from person to person. Everyone seems to wear clothes that make them feel like themselves. You could say that this could be a sort of analogy for diversity.”

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Alexis Ball and Jackson Abohasira talking and laughing about their weekend in class.

The students of West Bloomfield High School, have opportunities that most other schools in the state do not offer through the diversity of different opinions, socio-economic backgrounds, religions, and ethnicity. They have the chance to meet and experience people that are different from them so that they can be aware of the world around them before they leave high school.