Thriving in Diversity

What if we lived in a society where everyone was exactly the same? This is true in some parts of the world. This is not the case for West High, however; which is one of the most diverse schools in Alaska.

West is the second largest school in Alaska. Having a student body of 1,836, it’s size only comes second to our rival East High School. This large population gives West a wide range of faces and races.

With minorities comprising more than 50 percent of the Anchorage School District, some schools do not have a lot of variety. West High has a total of 62 percent minority enrollment according to the US News and World Report.

In the words of Damon Bookert, a proud parent of a West High School Eagle, “Diversity is multicultural, different races, different belief systems, and different languages.” West has a lot of all those differences, which makes everyone feel defined as a student, not a color or a race. Senior Samantha Decastro says, “I couldn’t picture myself going to any other school.”

There is a sense of the brother and sisterhood at West. The willingness to accept others customs and their ways of life is present. This unity destroys the color lines that are set in place by society.

West Alumna Devon Bookert says, “Being at such a diverse school prepared me for college because I’m used to all the different things and kinds of people.”

There are about six major ethnic groups at West: Caucasian, African American, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islanders, and Middle Easterners. These are the general groups that breakdown down into a lot of specific groups, which creates new groups because most kids are mixed. For example, there are many West students who are Caucasian and African American, and some Caucasian and Hispanic as well.

Why is Alaska of all places so diverse? It’s in the history and economic development of our state. Many people came to Alaska for the opportunity to start a new life and earn a better living. The Gold Rush in the 1950’s brought a diverse group of people seeking work. Also a lot of people came to Alaska for the pipeline, trying to get good paying jobs.

Due to the poor economy in recent years down in the lower forty-eight, many parents came to Alaska knowing they could find something better. With a stable housing cost and increasing job market, people find Alaska a land of opportunity. This is one of the main reasons why there is such diversity in Alaska and at West High.

Another reason West has so much diversity is all the different neighborhoods in the district. The zone for West encompasses Turnagain, Fairview, downtown and Spenard. There are a lot of socioeconomic differences in these neighborhoods, everything from a small apartment to a mansion. This brings a lot of different people to West, like kids that have been wealthy their whole life and some that live below the poverty line.

Samantha said, “I live in the Service High School zone but I heard such good things about West and I knew that was the high school that I wanted to go to. I also wanted to continue the Spanish immersion program.”

Other than students coming for the excellent immersion program, our AP, honors, and special education classes have a lot to offer our community of students.

On the extracurricular activity side of things, West offers music, competitive drama, debate, forensics, and even a competition where students compete by speaking Russian. Not only does West offer academic variety, it also offers many sports like basketball, football, soccer, hockey, tennis, track, and many more. Most programs being state renowned and favored to win championships.

With all the different people, and different economic backgrounds you would think it would be difficult for such a large group of students to gel together as a community as easily as West does. Yet, the diversity remains and the school thrives.