Diversity plays an important role in education
April 22, 2016
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Harding High School has one of the highest diversity rates in all of Saint Paul Public Schools, just behind American Indian Magnet. 20 percent of the school’s population is African American. With many of the events that have been taking place around the United States, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, what is it like to be an African American at Harding?
“ It’s alright, you know,” said Jeramiah Cotter who is a junior. “I don’t really have a lot of black kids in my class, and some classes, I’m the only black kid in there but it’s all cool. The diversity at Harding comes in handy most of the time but the low African American population in IB classes needs to change.” \
Demographics show that most students that participate in IB courses or have taken up the IB diplomacy are Asian. “It’s hard when you see people of color being scapegoated for the actions of a few bad apples,” said Jeramiah. “Not every black kid is interrupting class or disturbing the learning. Most of the students I see who are disrupting are African American but I hope that this circumstance will change in the near future.”
“I feel as if I’m more welcomed within this community because Harding has a wide variety of diversity,” said Tizon Matthews who is also a junior. “There are some perks to it but then at the same time I feel like I’m also being watched by some teachers because you might get involved in the wrong crowd. Some of the students who are disrupting the learning need to be disciplined by their parents. I believe that they are just a little lost and some want the attention of others. Some of the students who believe that it’s just okay for them to do something like this need to be sat down with and talked to because it’s not fair if everyone has to deal with their behavior. There’s a new club that we have started here at Harding High School called the Gentleman’s club. The teachers who have organized it are Kenny and Peter and it’s there to help motivate students but also people of color. We can help put them towards a direction so in the future they could break the stereotypes that have been put around African Americans.”
“The Gentleman’s club is about creating a group of students who are there to create a positive image for African Americans,” said Peter Olafeso, one of the supervisors of the Gentleman’s club. “We want the students who are participating in this club to build a good relationship with the staff because building relationships are key when you want to have a successful life. If these kids have a good relationship with the faculty members, then they will look at them and know that these students are really serious about their education.”
“What we are trying to do here is to try to give motivation because if these kids one day might want a job, this is a good start,” said Kenny Olafeso, who is also one of the staff members in charge of the group. “They want to become positive role models for the younger people in their community. While they are influencing younger children in their community, this is sort of like building a chain so it starts with them but then as it goes on, they will have an effect on them which will help those kids do the same.”
The African American population is rising and this club is a way to help students of color get involved and create a positive image for themselves. Racial stereotyping is something that has been a problem and this could be a first step into creating a positive environment in which students of color can be more involved within the community.