Hello, my name is…

Coming from a new school I observed that Walnut provided students access to interact with individuals of other ethnicities but instead, students miss this opportunity and form social bubbles, sheltering our exposure of other cultures.

From the perspective of a new student, students at Walnut miss the opportunity to interact with individuals of other ethnicities and instead form social bubbles that limit such exposure.

No farms. No food trucks at lunch. No band mosh pits after football games. From the lockers, to the gates, to the programs, I found that everything about Walnut High School was different from my past school’s environment. But perhaps the most important thing I noticed coming fifteen minutes away from Walnut was the daily interactions of the students here.

My first day I was immediately greeted by my GLC who walked with me around campus and showed me my classes. I was introduced to faculty members and teachers of various ethnicities welcoming me with smiles and open arms. I did not have the opportunity of interacting with teachers from different cultures on a day to day basis since my previous schools’ faculty tended to be Hispanic and white, limiting my exposure to other cultures.

And it wasn’t just that, I was overwhelmed hearing the first bell of the day, looking every direction to come across a sea of students rushing to class. But the efforts from my Humanities teachers introduced me to the friendly side of Walnut. My teacher asked the class if someone would sit with me at lunch. He was met with painful silence. Then, a girl sitting next to me sincerely volunteered, creating a chain reaction of other students offering to spend lunch with me, too. That day I met a handful of individuals I ordinarily don’t get to connect with,

Last year before my transfer,  the demographic surrounding me was 80% Hispanic and white, 10% black, and 2-3% of other ethnicities. Because of less exposure to different ethnicities, I notice that, at Walnut, social cliques tend to form based on similar ethnic identities. For some reason, this bothered me. Were we limiting cultural experience, hindering social skills, and stifling learning opportunities? The social interactions of students at my former school were very unlike that at Walnut. Previously, I relied on friends introducing new people to me. Meanwhile, I notice in class that teachers encourage interaction between individuals but do not further sharing of culture through meaningful social connections.

Students at Walnut have an opportunity that I didn’t have before, yet they don’t take advantage of it because cliques distract us from building relationships with new individuals. The school provides us access to communicate with individuals whose experiences of life differ from our own, but the comfort within social bubbles can lead to a habit. I’m not saying cliques are bad, but being a part of more than one group can be a benefit.

Maybe students resort to cliques and relate to individuals of similar identities and races in hope of comfort. But it very well could be the fear from straying away our daily norm; are we simply avoiding inconvenience?

And although cliques may form according to ethnicity, friendships can be forged without race as a factor.

Expanding your ability to communicate with people beyond your social bubble prepares you for future jobs with the experience of working well with individuals of different ethnic backgrounds. In this way, Walnut is a great reflection of the global community; new students coming from different countries not only have the opportunity to gain new insight, but they also offer their own life experiences for others to learn from. Right now, do you treat certain students differently and label them based on their circumstance? One of the things I noticed was my inability to identify the ethnicities of specific students when I first arrived at Walnut. It led me to making friends with individuals from countries I never knew existed.

Forming habits outside of our comfort zones influence flexibility and well roundedness towards our future. Looking forward, we must value the present as priceless decision amongst ourselves to engage within opportunities  provided. The skills developed and practiced in high school is an essential contribution to social awareness and communication abilities, tools used through all of your life. Relevantly, when given the availability of experiencing cultures or ethnicities unfamiliar to your own, consider stepping outside comfort zones and harness communication between peers in order to strengthen interactions with all students eliminating the divide in Walnut.

By Jessica Dixon, Staff writer
Photo by Airi Gonzales