By Robert S. Perry
Just last week, Martin Middle School English teacher, Judy Deperla handed to me a stack of short essays that her students had written on the topic of diversity. In the essays, students discussed the people in their lives who help to create a school culture that values diversity. I was pleased to find out that many students at MMS hold racial and cultural diversity as an important ideal in their lives. I was not surprised, however, as the acceptance of differences among people has long played a critical role in the education system of our city.
For much of the last century, East Providence has been a community full of racial and socioeconomic diversity. The city has faced its share of challenges for much of its history, but it has also rallied around its schools. In the classrooms of schools like MMS, Monteiros have worked next to Shadricks and Ferreiras. Hazards have played on the athletic fields with DaCostas and Millers. In so many instances in the their daily lives, students in East Providence have an opportunity to work and play with kids who look and sound different from themselves. It is just something they do – so much so that most kids don’t even realize how different they may appear from their peers. They take it for granted and that is a good thing.
Having been a student in East Providence, myself, I am proud of the experience I had working alongside so many different types of people. It was only after I left East Providence to go to college out of state that I came to realize how few students had the opportunity that I did to live in a diverse community. Like so many of my peers from EP, the experience made me more tolerant of differences among people, enabled me to work with new people, and adapt to new challenges.
I bring this up because I hope that it will remind our school community that the educational experiences that students at MMS share everyday are special. These experiences will never be reflected in report cards or standardized test scores. Yet, these experiences may allow a kid from East Providence to navigate more easily through a world that continues to grow smaller through technology, travel, and communication. It may be what gives a kid from East Providence a leg up in the job market of the future. With this in mind, we all ought to celebrate the diversity we experience everyday at MMS.