Artwork by Alex Corbin
Look around at your classes, at your lunch spot, at your friend group—most of us will see a highly partitioned view of Mamaroneck High School.
Mamaroneck High School thrives in its individuality. We take pride in our open campus, our close proximity to New York City, our focus on hands-on tangible learning. The true unique attribute of Mamaroneck High School, though, is the combination of high quality education and vast diversity.
It’s what sets us apart from our neighbors, Scarsdale and Chappaqua, for example. Although diversity and high level education are far from mutually exclusive, it is atypical that the two are spoken of together. Mamaroneck High School is and certainly should be proud of this diversity, gaining recognition from the White House for achievements in Hispanic education, constructing new initiatives such as Mamaroneck Scholars, PALMS, Post-secondary Access for Latino Middle-grade Students, and PATHS, Program Alignment Team for Hispanic Students to further minimize the racial achievement gap in our community, opening enrollment to advanced placement classes, etc.
On the surface, Mamaroneck High School has championed desegregation.
It doesn’t take deep analysis to realize that this integration is truly only skin deep. Look around at your classes, at your lunch spot, at your friend group — most of us will see a highly partitioned view of Mamaroneck High School.
(This isn’t to say that some students don’t break the status quo — plenty do— but we are all fooling ourselves if we pretend there isn’t some truth in this.)
So while Mamaroneck High School’s image might garner the advantages from being a diverse institution, on a personal level, students do not reap the benefits of going to an “integrated” school. We don’t learn each other’s stories, spend time in each other’s homes or even go to parties together. Yes, we can look around and see the differences among us, but we don’t really know what those differences mean or, more importantly, where our differences become common ground.
This lack of diversity within most students’ day to day lives is a fact that we all live with, but never talk about. While the topic of race comes up in social studies classes, rarely am I forced to look around and acknowledge this uncomfortable truth, in a social or academic setting. And I understand why.
We attend a high school where we can just as easily meet someone living in a multimillion dollar mansion as we can someone living skimming the poverty line. Both come with worthwhile stories, yet never once have I asked. Talking about race, and with it our socioeconomic differences, means different things to different people.
The topic walks a precarious line between acknowledgement and judgement. When the school launched The Mamaroneck Scholars initiative, a group of highachieving minority students, administrators were unsure of how to navigate topics and language in a real and honest way without possibly offending group members. Making progress can be difficult, as it comes with making mistakes. It’s a matter of trial and error, figuring out what crosses the line and what doesn’t.
While administrators and teachers may have started to uncover what works and what doesn’t when it comes to talking about our racial and socioeconomic differences, students, most certainly including myself, seem to have boxed the topic out as awkward, uncomfortable, and most pertinently, off limits.
We can point to bussing or The Princeton Plan to change this. The Princeton Plan is the idea that schools are split up by grade. For example, everyone in the Mamaroneck High School district would attend Murray for K-1, MAS for 2-3, Chatsworth for 4-5. If from an early age we are forced into situations where our differences come to surface, our lunch spots, our A.P. classes, even our parties, would most certainly look different.
We would learn each other’s stories through natural friendships, through sitting in one another’s houses at the fourth grade class picnics, through car rides home, etc. And while there are political, perhaps economical, controversies with this, all the studies show that it works, academically and socially.
But for the time being, while these policies are not in place, I still think us, students, could be doing a better job.
I know I could’ve done a better job in my four years at Mamaroneck High School.
In places where integration does exist in our school—sports teams, electives, maybe some classes—make an effort to sit next to someone you didn’t go to elementary school with. Listen intently to their contributions to a class discussion. Offer them a ride home from a PACE show, from a sports game, and ask questions. Maybe you’ll step on someone’s toes along the way, but we can’t be so afraid of the awkward that we don’t even try.
Through watching the Mamaroneck High School video show, and spending hours upon hours on The Globe, I’ve come to the conclusion that Mamaroneck High School students have some quite amazing stories to tell. We come from families of immigrants, of millionaires, of police officers, of actors, of many many walks of life. So just like we have all learned to take advantage of the many classes offered here, diversifying our schedules, making sure we get a taste of high level math and high level English, maybe we should try diversifying who we have conversations with, and the content of our conversations themselves. Perhaps make an effort to learn one another’s stories.
Since the embarkment of the Mamaroneck Scholars Initiative, when members felt uncomfortable and offended by the idea, the graduation rate for Hispanic students at Mamaroneck High School went up from 70 percent in 2010 to 91 percent in 2014. Talking about this stuff, while it may be awkward, even borderline offensive at first punch, can have deeply profound impacts.
We’ve clearly started to make strides in the academic sphere of our school. The White House has called us a “Bright Spot.” But to make that shine a bit more, we have to realize that a lot of academic success comes down to expectations, to pressure from peers — and these things can only exist universally in our high school with social integration along with academic integration. So while these small efforts I’m suggesting won’t come close to fixing Mamaroneck’s social segregation problem, maybe it’ll change the way we look at our community, or grant us some newfound sense of perspective.
By Hannah Lachow