by Ariana Habibi

When I arrived at J.E.B. Stuart for the first time, I was not sure what to expect for my four years of high school. In many ways, my experience will meet my expectations: I have developed friendships that I hope will have throughout my lifetime, found teachers who have acted as my mentors, and have truly just changed as a person. Although I would like to have done some things differently, I know I will leave school comfortable with how life turned out.

But school, like everything in life, is not perfect.

All of the students, teachers, and members of the administration are constantly proud of our diversity. This should not necessarily be considered as negative, for it emphasizes the special nature of our school in its ability to bring people from all over the world together. However, to truly benefit from and embrace this diversity, we must first eliminate the social structures that seek to limit it.

Such limitations primarily originate in the divisions between the socioeconomic level and the capacity of the English language. Together, these two factors result in the exclusion and separation of a large proportion of our student population—and the slogan of “We Are One” serves to ignore these problems.

Our school is a place where most people rely on reduced prices to enjoy the full student experience, but it is also a place where these students are ridiculed by others who believe that discounts are unfair even though they never They have lived in poverty themselves. Our school is a place where most people did not speak English when they were children, but it is also a place where these students are ridiculed by some of their teachers who believe that their lack of English ability correlates with a lack of desire to learn.

In simpler terms, we are not one, but this does not mean that we should not be.

I look forward to a day when students look outside of their group of friends to make friends with someone completely different from them by seeing the world from another person’s perspective and breaking down the barriers that previously limited their friendship. But this fantasy will not become reality without the action of all.

Many organizations within our school have become more inclusive of the Spanish-speaking population. For example, elective classes enroll students from all backgrounds and levels of language ability, the theater program has long tried to reach Spanish-speaking students, and the PTSA has become more inclusive to gain a greater perspective on the issues that they argue.

Now, the school newspaper has taken strides to become more inclusive as well.

In addition, “We Are One” ignores the very importance of diversity for it ignores the notion that we are not one. Each student has had different experiences and has different dreams, and though one may be similar to another’s, each is distinctly unique. Thus, the importance is not that we “are one,” but that our school unites us.

I hope that the name change of the school to “Justice” next year will bring with it a series of other changes that will improve the dynamics of our school. Although many students and members of the community are still upset about the name change, it offers the possibility of a major change: a new name for a new school.

Now, as I reflect on my high school experiences, I not only remember the people who had an impact on my life, but also those who did not: individuals who I often saw walking in the crowded or sitting in the corner of a classroom after school, but never took the time to talk to. Ultimately, any opportunity someone has to talk to another person to gain a wider experience about the world is an opportunity worth taking.

And our school must be more united so that these opportunities can be fully achieved.