Despite making up nearly 25% of the 1829 students at Mountain View High School, Latinos are grossly underrepresented in leadership and student-run classes such as Associated Student Body and Oracle. This disparity is dangerous–our leadership classes, publications, and clubs should represent all students on campus and give everyone an equal say. Such leadership forums should therefore place greater emphasis on including and fostering diversity, either through closer cooperation with middle school programs or increased activism on campus.
First, we should understand why this lack of representation exists. The students who run for office and other leadership positions typically have prior experience in leadership and confidence in their abilities, often through their participation in programs such as music, sports, student publications, or the class leadership in middle and elementary school. Frequently, the majority of Hispanic/Latino students at these grade levels are less encouraged by their family, culture, or school, to join these.
“I come from a family and culture where it is not typical for us in America to have leadership positions,” senior Jessica Fernandez said. “I always felt that there was someone there to guide me and was never introduced to the ‘leadership’ idea until high school.” Fernandez currently helps run and lead the Ambassadors club, camp Everytown club, Robotics club, and Persian club.
The current efforts by the administration, leadership classes, and several clubs to reach out to middle schools are commendable. ASB organizes an annual retreat with Graham’s leadership students to get them more connected to high school leadership. Oracle began recruitment visits to middle schools two years ago, and is starting an Intro to Journalism class for the 2014-2015 school year that will hopefully attract a greater range of students. Finally, the Ambassadors club regularly visits Blach to introduce students to the various leadership options.
“I’m working with an 8th grade science teacher at Crittenden to work on ways to get underrepresented kids connected,” Vice Principal and Freshman Orientation advisor William Blair said. “We are also adding diversity to our Ambassador’s program by trying to recruit people from multiple middle schools and people who speak a variety of languages.”
However, there is still room for improvement when it comes to fostering leadership in underrepresented middle schoolers. ASB and Oracle especially should work to encourage kids to at least try out the leadership track early on. This could be done through recruitment videos and visits done earlier in the school year, and by working more closely with the middle school programs themselves to promote leadership to all students on campus. Making middle school and high school leadership less intimidating and more friendly through casual visits and accessible videos could easily open up the idea of leadership to all students from an early age.
The efforts taken to include a more diverse range of student leadership at MVHS are similar. Camp Everytown had its most diverse applicant pool this year, with 20% of the delegates identifying as Hispanic/Latino. The Leadership class headed by Ms. Miraglia, which works to include get as many different kinds of students involved with running the school, has reached parity with the school population with nine of it’s 26 students identifying as Hispanic/Latino. The fact remains, however, that out of the 78 students in both ASB and Oracle only three are Latino. In order to include more students, Oracle and ASB should aggressively campaign at the beginning of the year to encourage more Latino students to join and add their voice to our student government and publications.
Failure to encourage minorities in leadership positions not only risks misrepresenting the MVHS student body as a whole, but also missing out on the wealth of diverse opinions. Increased diversity means greater collaboration between different kinds of students, and allows for a greater range of creativity.
The community at MVHS is fully supportive and prepared to become more inclusive.
“The staff has a huge investment in reaching out,” Principal David Grissom said. “It has made a mission to provide the best education to everyone, and I’m impressed with how they reach out.”
Ultimately, it is up to students themselves to take responsibility and follow their ambitions.
“Be proud of the culture you come from and don’t be afraid to fail or be undermined,” Fernandez said. “ Confidence is key because you will always encounter someone who is simply unaware that minorities can perform the same tasks as they can. Don’t let their thoughts and actions get to you because at the end of the day, all that matters is that you were able to push yourself to go beyond your comfort zone.”