Valley teens address racial tensions in schools, community
October 5, 2009
CARBONDALE – Tensions between Anglo and Latino residents may be more pronounced in the broader community than in local schools, KDNK youth radio students observed during a panel discussion held Sept. 30 at Roaring Fork High School.
Today’s teenagers grew up with television shows like Little Bill and the ever-up-to-date Sesame Street program to help children understand and respect differences in people, noted Glenwood Springs High School student Abril Loya.
“There is still some tension in our generation between different groups, but I think it’s much more distinct in our parents and grandparents,” she said.
At her school, Loya said, she mixes with Anglo students through her involvement in sports and other activities.
Still, while there isn’t any physical confrontation between groups, she said she does notice some tension between students of different ethnic groups.
“There is a lot of self-segregation at times,” Loya said. “People do tend to want to group themselves with people who are similar to them.”
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Loya was one of six panelists selected to address the topic of multicultural relationships in the Roaring Fork Valley’s schools. The on-air panel discussion was sponsored by KDNK and the Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment Program, as part of the KDNK membership week special programming.
Calder Morrison, a student at the alternative Bridges High School in Carbondale, said he finds the valley’s youth to be pretty educated and tolerant when it comes to race relations.
“We’re all friends with everyone,” he said.
The same can’t always be said for adults in the larger community, Morrison said, especially those who were raised with a racist mindset.
“A lot of people hold on to ideas they had when they were growing up, and it’s still around and they think it’s OK,” he said.
He recalled overhearing a discussion a few years ago among adults who didn’t want to send their kids to Carbondale Middle School, because it had 65 percent Latino student population.
“It’s so openly said, and it’s scary that it’s still around,” Morrison said.
Roaring Fork High School representative Ingrid Gomez said it doesn’t seem to matter as much any more in her school what the ratio of Latino to Anglo students is. And relations between students has improved, she said.
“Sometimes you just have to let someone know when something is not OK,” she said.
“I would like to see more parents come to our school for a visit, and see that we really do try hard,” Gomez added.
Students were also asked by panel moderator John Bennett, the former mayor of Aspen, whether gay and lesbian students can find a safe environment in the local schools.
Most said it’s not an issue as far as student harassment, but some schools have talked about forming support groups for gay and lesbian students, they said.
Morrison said he notices discrimination between different groups of students for reasons other than racial distinctions.
“We hear crap all the time about our school, just because it’s an alternative school,” he said. “There are people who won’t hang out with Bridges kids just because they’re Bridges kids, or even Basalt kids because they’re Basalt kids.”
The schools, perhaps more than the broader community, have instituted programs to help improve interaction between Latinos and Anglos, the students said.
Gomez pointed to Crystal River Elementary School’s bilingual program as benefiting cross-cultural relations. Several students also said their schools have on-campus bilingual forums and multicultural clubs.