Making strides in embracing diversity

What the increase of differences means for Millard West students


Photo Courtesy of Freepik

With a new increase of diversity at Millard West, students are benefiting from cross-culture understanding and gaining skills to help prepare them for the future.

Kelsey Nunnenkamp, Staff Reporter

When some think of Millard West, the ‘upper-class suburban white kid’ stereotype is quick to follow, however, that’s not all too accurate. Cultural diversity at Millard West is at an all-time high.

During the 2019-2020 school year approximately 14% of all students were minorities. Since then, that number has increased to nearly 19% with a slight decrease in total student enrollment. During those four years, Millard West opened up to both in-district transfers and open enrollment. Not only that, but the addition of the EL program in 2022 influenced change as well.

“I have learned so many things from teaching EL students,” EL teacher Shelby Gewinner said. “All of my students are kind, caring, and understanding of each other and incredibly accepting of cultural differences within our classroom. Prior to West adding the EL program, many families enrolled their students in our school with the understanding they would not receive EL services. Now that we have the program, I feel the diversity of the school will continue to change and grow.  Having cultural diversity will allow all of us to appreciate different perspectives from all around the world.”

The increase of diversity doesn’t only relate to race and ethnicity; it can include students of different religion, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity and language background. With that, diversity brings new perspectives into a classroom which enhances discussion and learning opportunities. It also adds well-rounded views and helps students learn more from each other to see things in a way that they may not have considered otherwise. In order to do so, it is important that minority students feel recognized. Multiple studies conducted by George Mason University in 2014 found that minority students reported feeling isolated, unwelcomed, and invisible when differences in the classroom were overlooked. 

“School is supposed to be a safe environment for all students,” Justice and Diversity League senior Tayler Hand said. “Inclusion helps minority students feel safe and welcomed, and when people see the representation of themselves in their community they gain a sense of belonging.”

Overall, diverse schools see students who are more empathetic and less prejudiced, allowing everyone to feel more safe and confident within their learning environment. No matter the grade level, introduction to culture and racial differences has a great positive impact on students and educators. Research by The Progressive Century Foundation showed that schools with more intermixed diversity saw no difference in test scores from schools that are less diverse. Being surrounded by people who are different from ourselves doesn’t develop a skill that can be demonstrated through standardized testing, but more or less a skill that prepares us for real life experiences. 

The Century Foundation states that 96% of major employers say it is important that employees be “comfortable working with colleagues, customers, and/or clients from diverse cultural backgrounds.” All students benefit greatly from attending a school with increasing diversity as they learn how to better navigate adulthood and develop skills that companies value. In 2045, the U.S. Census predicts that over half of the nation’s population will be people of color, so this trend will likely continue to become more prevalent.

“One of our beliefs in Millard Public Schools is ‘Diversity Enriches Life,’” Millard West Principal Dr. Greg Tiemann said. “As we become more diverse, our students receive a greater learning benefit of cross-cultural understanding and there is great value in learning and growing with diversity in a high school. As a community that wants to develop the leaders of tomorrow, we want to prepare our students to thrive in a global society. We also want our students to be able to work and live with everyone through respecting differences, having empathy, and knowing the importance of human dignity.”

 In our increasingly diverse society, it’s even more important than ever for our school to be incorporating culturally responsive instruction within the classroom. We must continue to celebrate the changes of Millard West diversity and continue to make our school a safe space for all.