They sat down at the table with us.
Two high school students facing a half dozen adults.
They were there to share with us what it was like for them in high school.
As we listened, they spoke of the support and encouragement they felt from teachers and staff. And, they shared that, for the most part, they felt included in the larger school community. They were grateful for the education they were receiving and the opportunities before them. When it was our turn to ask them questions, I asked this.
Did they feel the same level of support and encouragement and inclusion in the larger community in which they lived as they experienced in school?
Here is the back story.
Both of the students with whom we had the opportunity to talk had come to this country and moved into our community at the beginning of high school. When they moved here neither of them spoke a word of English. Yet, here they were just a few years later succeeding academically in a high performing high school, and telling a group of adults who they did not know about their experience.
There were two take aways for me.
First, kudos to our high school for creating an environment in which all students have the opportunity to succeed. This is not to say that there are not significant issue that continue to face and challenge our school district. There are, but on this front our schools are working hard to create an environment that includes more than it excludes.
My second take away is that our communities are far behind our schools.
That is to say the adults in our communities are far behind the young adults in our communities. On a daily basis these two young adults, who I am sure are representative of many others, walk into a supportive atmosphere in the morning and walk out into a much less supportive atmosphere when school is over for the day.
As community members…
We need to do a better job.
We need to catch up to our schools.
We need to acknowledge that our community is a safe, supportive place for some and an much less safe and much less supportive place for others. And the dividing line often has something to do with language and color of skin and economic background.