Montgomery County Public Schools prides itself on its diversity, boasting students from 157 different countries speaking 138 different languages. This diversity has the power to promote open-mindedness and creative thinking.
However, while MCPS’ student body is 69 percent non-white, this diversity is unevenly distributed. For example, 71 percent of Walt Whitman High School students are white, yet white students make up less than 5 percent of John F. Kennedy High School’s population. Since the ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity level varies in individual MCPS high schools, whether or not the county’s diversity has a positive impact on students often depends on inter-school interactions.
Most MCPS-sponsored interaction among students from different schools stems from competition. Whether it’s a sporting event, a debate, or a mock trial, MCPS students tend to meet as rivals. The very nature of competition distracts students from truly getting to know other students from around the county. As a student athlete for cross country and track, for example, many of my inter-school interactions occur at the starting line before a race. I offer a hasty “good luck” to the runners on my left and right, while secretly thinking, “I’m about to crush you.”
Don’t get me wrong–countywide competition builds deep friendships within schools. Teammates support one another, celebrate hard work together, and watch each other grow, all the while crafting bulletproof bonds. The resulting inter-school relationships, however, are superficial.
True, some MCPS students from different schools form meaningful friendships through non-school sponsored classes and events. However, many others lack access to these activities or simply aren’t aware of their existence.
MCPS needs school-sponsored activities that bring students from different schools together into one team. Maybe students could opt to join a countywide book club, or ski club, or juggling club.* MCPS could schedule an ice cream social, or a dance, or a speed-dating session. The MoCo Student, as a newspaper for students all around the county, is an excellent start. I recently joined the staff in hopes to meet students from different schools and learn about their perspectives on various issues. The next step is creating something for every type of student and unique set of interests. No matter the activity, Montgomery County students, once united, would reach new levels of understanding.
*A juggling club and a speed dating session can both be found at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.
Article by MoCo Student Opinions writer Zoe Nuechterlein of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School
Image by MoCo Student staff artist Angel Wen