Hearing the my friends’ stories about their educational experiences never ceases to amaze me in the levels of diversity that they experienced. Even those who came from similar areas of the country may have had vastly different experiences, but the common factor that seems to be evident in each of their stories is how inclusive or exclusive their school community was.
For some of my friends, high school was an overall good and eyeopening experience. Some traveled overseas with their music groups or leadership clubs, some had the opportunity to work in soup kitchens or clean up rough neighborhoods and talk to the individuals who lived there. Some had the opportunity to take advanced classes and college credit classes that enlightened them on what they could possibly do with the rest of their lives. Some were part of sports teams that made it to state championships and some won state titles in other competition based activities, along the way meeting and competing against people unlike themselves and forming friendships that would last much longer than the end of their seasons. I am fortunate enough to say that I was one of these individuals, and while I would not like to go back to high school by any means, it was an experience that changed my life for the better. Without the opportunities I was privileged enough to have, I would not be who I am today.
However, some of my other friends did not share the same outlook after their previous educational experiences. Some went to schools where signs of individuality were discouraged and diversity itself was a foreign concept. Everyone had their place in the social circle and no one dared try to change it. Individuals were stereotyped by who they were or what they did or where they came from. For some, the ironic song from High School Musical “Stick to the Status Quo” was less irony and more reality; you don’t associate with those outside of your class or your circle, and if you do, you are seen as a social pariah.
In order to broaden our horizons and experience life to its fullest, I believe we need to put ourselves in situations that allow us to experience life differently than what we are used to. We must get past what we see as social norms and reach out to those who may be different than us. Without this kind of development in our experiences, we lack a vital educational experience: we never learn what life is like for people not like ourselves.