Thoughts on Diversity in School

Growing up in a small town in Northern California, you would think that there wasn’t much in the way of diversity, however, the town where I’m from celebrates many different cultures. Today, in fact, it’s the Sikh Festival. It may seem like an odd place for it, but Butte County has one of the largest Sikh populations in the United States, and my cousins look forward to attending this festival every year. Sacramento, where I attended most of elementary school was incredibly diverse, and had many different cultural celebrations throughout my attendance there. It wasn’t something that I thought all too greatly about, that is, until I reached high school.

I attended high school in Chico, California. Chico is a sleepy little college town that really only makes headlines on random major holidays when the college kids that invade the town drink too much and decide to burn couches in the middle of the street. There is incredibly little in the way of cultural experiences, diversity, or inclusion in Chico. It is incredibly white washed and full of subtle racial bias. There was a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) of which many of my friends helped put together, but it was not highly recommended by faculty and didn’t get very much in the way of attention or publicity. There was little to no mention of celebrating diversity, and I can’t recall one cultural event put on by the school.

My cousin Abbe, the one that loves attending the Sikh festivals, often has moments of pure rage at the ignorance that her classmates spew from their lack of understanding or even want to understand another person’s beliefs and/or practices. When I tell her about our campus at Shoreline she is happy, but a bit jealous of our inclusiveness. While she struggles against the current in a small town community college, we here at Shoreline reap the academic benefits of having our minds opened up to endless possibilities of culture and background. We are fortunate to have teachers that speak to these current events daily in their lectures, and use their platform to promote inclusion and curiosity.

I know that Abbe wishes she could do something to push her campus to take these matters more seriously, but that can feel pretty overwhelming. My friend Gina is a professor at this same college and teaches one of the lower level English classes. She is on the front line of what it looks like for these students that struggle with English as their second language. I feel that here at Shoreline we have a whole crew of Gina’s, and they work hard daily to make sure that their ESL students know that their ideas are great, and that their thought process is solid, and that they understand their point in their papers and they (foreign exchange students) may be frustrated, but they will be supported. I really appreciated my English 102 professor because she made it very clear from the first day of class that she wanted all of us to get to know each other, and learn about our differences, and most importantly, respect and appreciate those differences. There was a student in our class that was transitioning from female to male, and when this was shared in class with us by the student, this professor was dedicated to referring to this student by their preferred gender pronoun and ensuring that the rest of the class was passionate about this students’s comfort and success as well.

I had the pleasure of taking Dr. Hamako’s Multicultural Studies course here at Shoreline, and I found it to be incredibly helpful. Not only did he make students more aware of the diversity in our school, but show us that it was something to be celebrated and discussed. It must be hard to teach these values to adults, but he met the challenges head on, and instead of stepping in and talking down to students he let other students discuss it with respectful dialogue. I think that it’s important that we not only learn from our professors, but also from each other and that’s something I really valued about that course. It was very inclusive, and students felt supported. Not only do we have such a diverse student body in which to learn so many new and interesting things, we have teachers that encourage this, and that’s what I hope will happen in my small town California, but we are going to need a lot more Gina’s.

 

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Jessie Yule: Master of Chaos?

My name is Jessie. I’m 30, I’m married to a seriously patient man, and we live in our newly bought dream house in Lake Stevens with “the happiest dog in the world”, Wilson. My husband Jason and I have been together for nearly nine years so by now, we are pretty familiar with how each other operates. He is the planned out and financially responsibility aspect to our relationship, and I’m impulsive and silly, with a meticulous and orderly side when necessary.

Living in the suburbs is almost exactly how you’d expect. Jason grew up in the suburbs in Kenmore, and I am a California transplant whose Mother made us move every two years for nothing more than “a feeling” she had. It’s safe to say the impulsive tendencies that I battle come directly from her. Moving from town to town doesn’t give too much of an opportunity to set roots, and suburbs were never really my family’s destination. The subdivision that I live in now is the kind I would dream about at night while curled up in the room that I shared with my baby brother in our one bedroom apartment while my Mom slept peacefully in her makeshift bedroom otherwise known as the living room.

In our neighborhood now, there are beautiful trees that line the sidewalks. We have a mailbox. I don’t think that I have ever had a proper mailbox my entire life. There are numbers on our house and they don’t begin or end with a letter signifying which building we live in. We have a yard for our dog to play in, and weekends are often spent doing yard-work and watching the Seahawks with our neighbors. Our dog is known as “the happiest dog in the world”, a descriptive given to him by one of our many neighbors that we have come to know as friends. This is a place of giving your neighbor your spare key to let your dog out, and running across the street for a muffin pan.

Jason and I have chaos. We have so much chaos in our combined lives, that at times it would overwhelm us to the point of wanting to give up and go our separate ways. We started out as twenty-somethings, him working the door at a popular college bar, and me in a paid volunteer position for the state that made little to no money. We lived with roommates that drank too much, much like ourselves at that time. After that we moved in to our own place, but it was a small, dank, one bedroom apartment reminiscent of the cramped living spaces I grew up in. The years went by, and we got married, and got our dog, Wilson. I began working at Starbucks as a shift supervisor, and he became a bartender at his bar after a very serious work injury broke his leg in several places and the metal rod in his tib/fib prevented him from working security ever again.

It was here, on the brink of separation, that we knew that we had to organize and calm the chaos in our lives. We knew that if we let it take hold of us much longer we would lose out on what we had already worked to build. We started planning out our days by chunks of time. Mapping out where we needed to go, and the things we needed to accomplish by days end. We organized our spending, tracking every penny that went outside of our house, this was a strength for Jason, so he focused on helping me. We made phone calls we were scared to make, and had meetings we were absolutely terrified to have, and made ourselves vulnerable together. I got together all of our financial documents (when you’re buying a house, there are wayyyy more than you’d think…) and organized them by month and year and acted as our voice to advocate for our concerns, our wants, and our needs. This was my strength, and I helped Jason to use his voice when planning our future.

Ultimately, organizing our chaos on paper led to organizing and maintaining our chaos everywhere else. We have so much going on in our lives still, but learning to plan for it has helped relieve much of the burden it bears. The main takeaway for us has been the impact it has had on our relationship. By anticipating our own needs, and using planning tools even in times of uncertainty, we are better equipped to handle the chaos that life has always thrown our way. We have our dream house, and we worked incredibly hard for it. We have each other, and we worked incredibly hard for that, too. Mastering the chaos is highly improbable, but organizing it helps.

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