Bridging Cultural Differences, Lafayette High School Students Do What the World Cannot

As a teacher at Lafayette High School, every day I am filled with wonder when I see the students in my classroom working, in the hallway, in the cafeteria, walking, talking and sharing space together. These students are from all parts of our complex world—from Somalia, Burma, the West Side of Buffalo, Bhutan, and Puerto Rico. They are different religions, or practice no religion at all—there are Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims.

Seeing this sight, working with and being around them daily compels me to remind them frequently of this simple and profound truth: that every day they do that which much of the world cannot do. That is: to come together across linguistic, cultural and religious differences.

Sadly, much of the world not only cannot do this today, it has never been able to do so.

So, I see these students as the hope for the future—and, assuming that the future will be here someday, and based on the cooperation, friendship, and collaboration that these students are able to achieve, it looks bright.

Especially considering the current political climate, it is important to remember that many work daily, diligently and selflessly to better themselves, others and the world around them.

One way is through acts of kindness. Author Claudia Rankine writes, in her National Book Critics Circle Award-winning book, “Citizen,” of how, as a professional woman and a person of color, she encounters daily micro-aggressions of racism and sexism. Her writing illustrates the need for kindness; the absolute necessity of an awareness of and commitment to inclusivity that is necessary for strong community and healthful lives.

It is not for the oppressed to convince the world of their suffering. It is for all of us to recognize inequity, injustice, and cruelty—and to pledge allegiance to the betterment of people; to work for a more just future. The students of Lafayette High School prove daily that this can be done.  K

In addition to being a teacher, Melissa Meola Shanahan is a parent, a graduate student working on her PhD, and associate director of Torn Space Theater.

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