A Transition to Tolerance

Moving to a new school with an entirely different culture opened my eyes to diversity and inclusivity.

Unlike+my+old+life+in+West+Virginia%2C+moving+to+Pennsylvania+gave+me+an+opportunity+to+voice+my+opinions+with+the+security+of+acceptance.+
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A Transition to Tolerance

Unlike my old life in West Virginia, moving to Pennsylvania gave me an opportunity to voice my opinions with the security of acceptance.

Unlike my old life in West Virginia, moving to Pennsylvania gave me an opportunity to voice my opinions with the security of acceptance.

Ronald Bellorin Vasquez Venzla.

Unlike my old life in West Virginia, moving to Pennsylvania gave me an opportunity to voice my opinions with the security of acceptance.

Ronald Bellorin Vasquez Venzla.

Ronald Bellorin Vasquez Venzla.

Unlike my old life in West Virginia, moving to Pennsylvania gave me an opportunity to voice my opinions with the security of acceptance.

By Chloe Mawyer, North Allegheny Senior High School

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In my old West Virginian hometown, it wasn’t uncommon to see Trump flags flying on the tailgates of trucks. Growing up in a deep red state, I was accustomed to most people assuming a similar political identity. Although many of my new friends in Pennsylvania presume that political divides must be everywhere, they’re minimal in my home state.

In the “hollers” and hills of West Virginia, country boys with big trucks dominated the population of my school. Without surprise, most everyone at school jumped on the “Trump train.” From MAGA hats to passionate “build the wall” chants, we were your stereotypical right-wingers that everyone on CNN had in mind.

We rode four wheelers, showed off our trucks, went fishing weekly, and treated hunting season as an even bigger deal than football season. Teenagers who pledged allegiance to the Second Amendment ran rampant in my old school.

And, surely enough, diversity wasn’t accepted.  Your opinions could divert from those of the right only at your own risk.

There is danger in a lack of diversity, and it became obvious to me after moving here to North Allegheny. Culturally, ethically, and racially, I had been raised in a bubble. Everyone was white and from the surrounding area. Only 6% of the students belonged to a racial group that wasn’t white. I had never had peers from different countries who weren’t foreign exchange students. Common stereotypes of groups of people were upheld by my peers, as no one was ever given the benefit of the doubt.

Culturally, ethically, and racially, I had been raised in a bubble. Everyone was white and from the surrounding area.”

But life in Pittsburgh is refreshing. At NA, there is significantly more respect for each other’s political opinions and cultures. In the past, I was never been able to be the voice of the left without retaliation. I can say I’m pro-choice without others denouncing me as immoral, and I can state my gun control opinions without being told I’m “the problem with America.”

Every young person should be able to express their views without the fear of verbal retribution, but that luxury is afforded to too few students across rural America. It should be up to educators and administrators, regardless of their geographical location, to create a safe environment for the formation and expression of students’ political views. Today’s youth are America’s future, and they will be the generation who will inevitably face the challenge of enacting reforms to protect and advance the country.

NA creates such an environment where its students can speak their truth. After transferring to NASH, I became a member of the Multicultural Student Union and No Place for Hate. I took the opportunity to get involved and surround myself with individuals with different backgrounds and views.  It’s been a refreshing and invigorating new experience for a girl who grew up only a couple hours away, but in a far, far different place.

It’s essential to our growth to interact with people who challenge us. Naively, until this year, I hadn’t been aware of how crucial and eye-opening it is to go to school with peers whose families come from around the world.

Yet it’s not only in the vacuum of a closed community that young people tend to conform to their peers.  Even here at NA, we can develop the mindset that we don’t need to change, that our beliefs are right, and that our opinions are the only valid ones. I’ve been lucky to learn before it’s too late that we must break this mold that our surroundings have formed.

America has made great progress over the centuries, but we still lack sufficient tolerance for the wide variety of cultural backgrounds, lifestyles, and viewpoints that have long made us one of the most diverse nations on Earth.  It’s up to the youth to change things for the better.

This story was originally published on The Uproar on January 17, 2020.