Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Wellstone International High School, the coolest, most exciting high school I’ve ever seen, of whose students I will remain eternally jealous. I heard multiple languages as I was shown the school, and had the chance to speak Somali, Spanish, and Arabic—but unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to speak French with the Haitian student.
As I was leaving, a retired teacher said to me, “I envy you.” I replied to him, “You envy me?! You got to come here for work! This is the best place to work I’ve ever seen!” The school sets the standard for what global education can and should be.
This high school is designed for immigrant kids. Since the students have varied educational histories, the program is aimed at 17-21 year-olds. This provides a unique atmosphere.
The older age of the students makes the school feel collaborative and open, but with a high level of focus and maturity. The halls were not noisy, and most of the classroom doors remained open. My tour guide led me right into active classes, and while I spoke with the teacher, students remained heads-down working, or would stand up to introduce themselves to me. The line into the cafeteria was tame, with students chatting quietly.
Languages abounded! I met kids from Somalia, Yemen, and El Salvador—which only represents a fraction of the students’ home countries. When I asked my tour guide—a Somali immigrant—if she was learning Spanish, she said, “Yes, and she,” pointing to a fellow-student, “is my teacher.” I found out that she also spoke bits of Amharic and Oromo, and had recently learned a little Chinese. I also saw greetings in Somali in the art classroom—which the non-native Somali-speaking teacher used with students.
Next month they will present a cultural show, which not only shows off cultures but also teaches. Students purposefully include students from other cultures in their presentations. The Latino dance number includes Somali students. A student will present a poem in English, Spanish, and Somali. Students immerse themselves in multiple cultures at once.
I cannot imagine a school could teach global skills better than this school. My kids’ schools include many more languages than this school, but they do not teach each other their language. They do not celebrate their own cultures or learn about others’.
These students, I hope, represent the standard for global awareness and connection for the next generation. I look forward to seeing where these kids end up in the next 20 years—and if there’s any way I can help them get there.