Pa. students strive for diversity

May 14, 1997


Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Chambersburg Area Senior High School has about 1,700 students in grades 10 through 12 and most of them hang out in groups governed by their academic ability, race and even the neighborhood schools that fed them into the high school, according to student leader.

"There's a lot of diversity in this school," said Jeff Lohman, 17, a senior and member of the school's Cultural Society, a group that organized last year to bring more unity to the student body.

The club has about 20 active members who realized that there are distinct lines between cultural groups in the school, Lohman said. The segregation is based on curriculum as much as on race or culture, he said.


Blacks, who usually stick together, represent only about 5 percent of the student population, school officials said.

In addition to race and culture, curriculum and academic ability also tend to put students into cliques, Lohman said. Students in the advanced placement classes, at the top of the academic heap, tend to hang out together, as do those in the college preparatory curriculum, Lohman said.

About half of the students in the high school are enrolled in general courses and many of them have been together since kindergarten. They were kept together through elementary and middle school and came into high school together. They don't interact with other students, Lohman said.

Cultural Society members see such cliques as harmful to the students and the school. "It definitely affects the atmosphere of the school," Lohman said. "It's disconcerting for club members to see."

Lohman sees segregation as harmful to learning.

"If you're in a class with motivated students like those in the advanced placement curriculum then you'll be motivated, but if you stay in a group that just slides by that's pretty much what you'll do," he said.

"The solution is to get students to interact," Lohman said. "The more groups you interact with the more you learn about yourself. This is all about making friends."

This week the club launched its first "Dare to Care: Celebrate Diversity!" pledge project. Members set up a table outside the school cafeteria and encouraged students to sign pledge cards saying they will recognize the importance of cultural diversity and pledge to respect the individuality of others.

By 1 p.m. Tuesday more than 250 students had signed cards. The effort will continue through Thursday, said Sandy Grotberg, a math teacher and co-advisor to the Culture Club.

Grotberg said while there is some racial tension in the school it hasn't been a big problem.

"It's part of being an adolescent," Grotberg said. "They're trying to figure out who they are, which group to be part of. Most students are working toward getting along," she said.

"The idea behind the pledge cards is to raise awareness, to recognize what other students are doing," she said.

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