Celebrating the diversity of Lane


Members of I-Days clubs showcase their country's flags at the conclusion of the I-Nights performance on March 16. (Photo courtesy of Vanessa Perez)

By Julia Schuurman, Assistant Editor

The bell rings, signaling another period of Mr. Enriquez’s Spanish II class at Lane. Today, the lesson is one that is not taught frequently in class, so it has the students’ attention.

“Do you interact with people from other cultures?” he asks the students.

As the kids discuss their responses, the answer to his question takes clear form. His students have already begun to willingly talk with their peers around them, regardless of identity and culture.

Many know America as a symbolic melting pot of cultures. Approximately 43.3 million foreign-born people live in the United States, according to American Progress, an independent policy institute. Locally, over a third of people in Chicago speak a non-English language, according to data platform Data USA.

Lane enrolls students from various tiers of the city of Chicago through the selective enrollment process. It holds a staggering 4,421 students as of 2018, according to CPS. The student body spans across the city and now across the globe as well.

Lane has a foreign exchange program that offers a hands-on immersion into Western culture by enrolling students from around the world. It has included students from China, Latvia, Spain and more.

Ayane Ahmed, Div. 962, is a foreign exchange student from northwestern Spain. At her time at Lane so far, she ran for cross country and is now a current member of the JV soccer team.

Ahmed explained that offering these programs to students from around the world provides them with a real experience of American lifestyle and culture.

“The best way to do it is to come to an American school and talk to American people,” Ahmed said.

It allows for interaction among people from areas that many local students have never explored before, she said.

Ahmed said that the mere size of Lane was a huge change for her. Coming from a school of roughly 600 students to the largest public school in the city of Chicago, Ahmed said she was shocked by the amount of people.

Source: CPS

However, Ahmed said she was happy to be greeted by a welcoming school community. Joining sports helped her make friends before school even started, making her transition graceful.

“Everyone here is really nice and trying to help me out,” Ahmed said. “It makes me so happy.”

Having a large pool of diverse students results in cultural enrichment. For example, amidst the vastness of Lane are talented and diverse groups of students that form the sensational clubs of I- Days.

I-Days performances are festive opportunities for students to celebrate their own cultures as well as appreciate others. Every March, students showcase their unique costumes, choreographed dances and a variety of food dishes representing their clubs.

Yi yuan Sun, Div. 963, is a foreign exchange student from China. Like Ahmed, Sun was pleasantly surprised by the amount of opportunities at Lane, such as I-Days and the new Southeast Asian Literature class slated for next year.

“There’s a lot of events happening here,” Sun said. “It really makes me love this school.”

Although Lane strives to be a welcoming environment, Enriquez said that adapting to life in a foreign country can be challenging.

Enriquez arrived in America in 2003 after moving from Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Having lived in America for 15 years, life was very different for him when he first arrived.

With little exposure to everyday English prior to his arrival, Enriquez explained that learning the English language was a challenge for him.

“For me, it was double the effort to translate and reread books,” Enriquez said. “I used double of my time in order to try to master it.”

Enriquez said that those who arrive in America without English as their native language first have to master English before continuing on with their studying or careers. This effort, however, got Enriquez to the position he is in today.

He now spreads a valuable lesson to his students, reminding them of the benefits of inclusion, interaction and communication.

Enriquez said that preserving other cultures and encouraging interaction among his students is very important. He said he believes there is much to learn from observing other identities as well as filling your life with diverse experiences.

“You have a very rich life if you can use what other cultures give to you,” Enriquez said.