Many people dream of getting on a plane and traveling all around the world. Imagine being able to experience different cultures and hear unique languages all in one place. Students who attend Central High School in Phoenix, have the opportunity of being exposed to diversity in their own school. Central has the highest numbers of Anglo and Native Americans, with the native population percentage being the highest in the district. About 68.8 percent of students are Hispanic at Central. In addition, Central is one of the leading schools in Phoenix with the most refugee’s and exchange students.
Central has many different clubs and events to promote diversity. Students can take a variety of language classes, such as; Spanish, French or Japanese. Among the students, many languages are spoken throughout the halls of school. Exchange students are also attracted to Central because of its International Language Magnet Program.
Schools around the district have a certain amount of exchange students who can attend. Central has 12 spots for exchange students, which is a high amount considering the other schools that may only have a few spots. AYUSA (Academic Year in the U.S.A) has a good reputation of being one of the most popular exchange program. Mollie Kidari, AYUSA Ambassador, thinks that having exchange students at Central benefits the students because “Central is unique, it is extremely multicultural.” Kidari says that the school has “the highest number of teen refugees in Arizona, from a variety of countries.”
Marvin Drexler, former exchange student from Germany, says he really liked how students included him in their group of friends, even though they knew he would only be there for a year. In the beginning it bothered him that people had many misconceptions about people from Germany, but he was able to show them that not everyone is the same. He enjoyed being able to interact with so many different people, which made him expand his knowledge and understanding of the world.
A popular club, for both exchange students and regular students, is the Adventure Club. Jeff Sing, a world history teacher, has run the club for many years. He says that “what we normally experience becomes our ‘normal’ view, Central High students leave Central thinking the world has lots of different people that interact peacefully.” He explained with the example of how students get accustomed to different culture and when they see a Muslim women wearing their head scarfs, or hijab, it is not a big deal.
Sing says that a small downside to having a huge variety of student might be “having to spend lots of effort teaching English to ELL students and our scores will, of course, always be lower than schools where everyone’s first language is English.”
Craig Pletenik, community relations manager at Phoenix Union High School District, says that “what makes it more diverse is that we have many refugee students at Central. Students at Central speak 36 languages at home, other than English.”
Drexler recited a quote, while flipping through his photo album, which said “Exchange isn’t a year in your life it’s a life in a year.”