4-5-2001

Diverse student body no reason to shun Central High

Point of View by Laura E. Doty

As a sophomore at Duluth Central High School, I am concerned about some of the negative attitudes that have surfaced during the recent school redistricting and school closing debates.

In those debates some people have implied, while others directly have said, that they don't want to have their children go to school with "those people.'' While there are legitimate reasons expressed for not wanting to close schools or to redistrict, opposition to going to school with "those people'' should not be one of them.

In my experience, "those people'' (when referring to Central students) means kids who study to their ability, teachers who are dedicated and inspiring, and a student body that is just like those at East and Denfeld high schools -- only more diverse. Sadly, some have used the term "those people'' to slam against Central students characterizing them as poor, druggies, hoodlums, dirty kids and those who live in the "sticks.'' This is not an accurate or fair characterization of who we are.

It is true that not all Central students drive expensive cars, wear the latest in fashions or live in the biggest houses; we are still just the same on the inside as everyone else. I live in the East End, but I made the decision to follow the footsteps of my two older sisters and attend Central High. Part of the reason was that I wanted to experience the diversity that is available only at Central.

The experience has given me the opportunity to be with a variety of people, teaching me many lessons and giving me a broader view and better insight on what to expect when I enter the "real world'' after school.

I admit I was at first apprehensive about going to Central, but not because I was going to be with "those people.'' It was because I didn't really know anyone at Central, as most of my friends from middle school went to East. Beyond the fear of entering a big, new high school, I was also afraid that I would not be accepted because I was from the East district.

However, I found these to be unfounded concerns. I was totally accepted and welcomed at the school. Even in my first weekend, I was involved in an activity with new friends. People at Central reached out to me and accepted me for who I am, not for where I lived. I now have friends who are of all different races, African-American, Puerto Rican, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian and Caucasian. Getting to know them has been an awesome experience and has helped me to become a more well-rounded and accepting person.

I have had friends from East or Denfeld say to me that they would not want to go to Central because they believe, because of its diversity, that Central is not safe. When I hear this, I get really upset. Yes, there are problems at Central High School, but really not any different from those at other high schools in Duluth -- except that they are more openly talked about and dealt with at Central.

I invite parents and students from other high schools in town to please come to Central and tour our building during any given school day. I would love to have them see what it is really like rather than rely on their assumptions. There really is no need to worry about safety. Most of us at Central have grown to accept the diversity of people and there wouldn't be any ridicule or judgment of visitors when they come.

We have wonderful kids in our school that are led by a great principal and assistant principal, excellent diversity leaders, and a terrific staff that is more than willing to help anyone who might fear being in our school. Our staff makes it a priority to help everyone feel comfortable and safe.

Central is a safe place that encourages diverse opinions, open celebration of ethnicity, equality regardless of economic status, and acceptance of diverse religions, race and political philosophies. Central is a good place to prepare students for life.

I really enjoy going to Central and can't imagine myself going elsewhere. It appears as though, with the new boundary lines, I will be in the Central district; and I am happy I will be able to remain there until I graduate. East and Denfeld are good schools, too. What saddens me, though, is that Central has so much to offer but is often given a negative label.

My suggestion to those students who might end up attending Central as a result of the boundary changes is to give Central a chance. Don't believe everything you hear about us. Check us out -- it won't take you long to realize that Central is an excellent school that goes beyond doing well with the "Three R's'' by offering valuable lessons in diversity. Duluth is one community, and people have the same needs and deserve the same respect from one end of our town to the other. I hope the ugliness of "classism'' can be eliminated in the future debate that takes place regarding our education.

Doty, a resident of the East High School area, is a sophomore at Central High School.

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