Letter to the Editor: Exclusion within GSHS


Anonymous , Reporter

Coming from a family of immigrants hasn’t been easy, especially when I first started school. As I was walking into my first day of kindergarten, I knew that I was already behind- there was a huge language barrier. Even now, I find it difficult to not reminisce on all of the times I have had to let go of my childhood a little too soon because of my situation. I grew up embodying my family’s struggles to become documented citizens or find a suitable job. Yet, at the heart of these struggles is where my eager determination was born. 


Growing up in an environment where I felt like most of the time, I had to catch up to my peers has taught me to be observant. Going into high school, I had high expectations for myself, and I have maintained those expectations. Often, these expectations were much bigger than my personal happiness and desires. 


When I was learning to read, I managed to read so much, I was an advanced reader all throughout elementary school and middle school, while the rest of my Hispanic peers were not. In fact, they spent their time in ELD classes, and spent their recess time retaking reading exams. Often, I wondered, why? I looked at my peers and looked at myself. We were similar. We started school at the same time. So why am I here, and why are they… retaking exams? Or being placed in slower paced classes? This gap continued to widen as we all continued to grow up. In fact, at times this gap became so apparent, I was befriended by my Hispanic friends and accepted into Peak group circles, and eventually the straight A student inner circle. 


This trend only continued as I approached my first year at Glenwood Springs High School. 


As a freshman at GSHS, I felt the sudden urge to keep my Straight A’s above anything else. Often, when I couldn’t reach that goal, it sent me into a spiraling circle of deception and decreased faith in myself. When sophomore year came rolling, I started taking two AP classes that year, an ambitious goal only students like me took. I continued to take more and more AP classes. Yet, the majority of the Hispanic students were taking their Freshman classes all over again. By junior year, many of these students dropped out of high school, and this number only grew astronomically this year, my Senior year. 


In my haste, and ambition, I often criticized my Hispanic peers, thinking they were academically disinterested. I regret those thoughts. I regret segregating them in my mind like the rest of my peers often do. I regret interpreting their personal struggles as them being academically unmotivated because I too have lived those struggles but too blinded by my own pain. 


It wasn’t until I picked up my National Honor Society application in the fall of junior year that I realized why these gaps were present and hyper focused. I was accepted into the NHS group. When I walked in, there were three  other Hispanic girls who were accepted into this group. There were no Hispanic boys. And the rest of the “society” faces were all Anglo. I felt like an Alien at my own school. The school I have represented with my grades, my leadership, and medals throughout the years. 


If you were to take the GPA’s from all of those students in that room, including myself, and detached the names correspondent of the GPA’s – you wouldn’t be able to tell whose GPA it was. They were all above a 3.5 unweighted. A symbolism of academic excellence. A beacon of pride, hard work, and determination. But not an accurate representation of the diversity in our school, or our valley. 


Perhaps this underrepresentation is not solely one party’s fault. It is the fault of several parties. There is the appeal to Hispanic students to be the first generation student to go to college– a dream shared by several Hispanic families. But as students begin to fall behind or face more workload, how are schools ensuring that families who perhaps have a language barrier can communicate with these families who have genuine questions and want to help their children? How can our schools create a gateway for these families to connect with teachers? 


And even then, if these efforts are fulfilled they are not enough for the time being. In our small community of Glenwood Springs, there has been a large influx of Hispanic families that are coming to our valley in search of jobs, better schooling, and opportunities. GSHS is not exempt of this influx. 


How are we aiding the students who don’t understand concepts? How are we helping students who need a tutor outside of class who also only happen to speak Spanish? How do we aid students who are new to our school and don’t speak English? What are we doing to help teachers whose efforts are centered around helping students with language barriers? Why do so many Hispanic students drop out? And what methods are being implemented to not alienate students who don’t speak English at our school? Personally I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’m not sure because I’ve never crossed paths with these students in my four years at being in this school even though we share a similar background. 


All of these questions require more than an effort to be inclusive. They require administration, teachers, and students to be more than just inclusive and open minded. They require systematic problem solving, more open communication about standards, testing, GPA, after school plans, college, viable solutions for failed classes, etc. For instance, there should be more bilingual parent meetings, perhaps even designated nights where Spanish speaking parents can attend school meetings about sports, clubs, important events such as graduation, scholarship night, etc. A small change like that, can ensure that more parents who want to be involved can be a more prominent guide for their children in the most important years of their education. 


I think back on my experience in the school system of America. It hasn’t been easy. As a daughter of immigrant parents, I had no one to rely on to tell me how college worked, how much colleges weighed your standardized scores or how to do my homework. I had to figure all of this out largely by myself and I had to figure out that good grades meant you had currency in our school system. That good grades lead to good college offers. That NHS means you have an above average GPA than most students in the nation. The list continues, it’s infinite. 


When I reflect on this experience I wish that someone could have told me the weight of trying to be the perfect student for the perfect college didn’t have to just be on my shoulders. I wish that I hadn’t been so hard on myself and isolated myself trying to pretend that I never struggled with certain subjects or trying to extend my schedule past 11 pm to complete AP homework, internships, club duties, etc. 


My father and mother have been equivocal support systems, but just like me, elementary school, middle school, high school, and soon to be college, has been their first time and first experience as well. There is beauty and pride in all of the awards, accomplishments, GPA, heavy coursework classes, and being a first generation student- but there is also deep pain that leaves you hollow. 


I feel for the several peers who I have seen drop out of school. Or perhaps fail more than 3 classes at a time. My family also feels for other Hispanic families who feel like they have failed their children at the sight of them performing poorly in school and not being able to do anything to alleviate those feelings of failure. 


I now see myself, and those families, and peers who I have seen disappear into the workforce a little too early. I’m not better than them. In fact, I see them and ask myself, how has this system continued to fail students like them, and students like me? How has this issue continued to affect us for so long? 


Instead of a critique or addressal, this is an invitation to be better for the students who are misunderstood, behind, or need more time to understand a concept. This is an invitation to make every group visible in the eyes of administration and community members alike. This is THE invitation to become leaders for students who are lost, confused, and underrepresented. The phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child” wasn’t recounted in vain. So let’s make GSHS, as a starting point, the place where every child has the opportunity to flourish.