The Faces of DHS: How Diverse is out School


Todd Murray

Durango High School is made up of many different faces with enrollment at approximately 1100 students. A student body of that size and residing in a fairly progressive town brings a relatively diverse population. However, there are far fewer ethnic minorities than there are Caucasian students at DHS.

White students make up nearly 75% of the student body, leaving only about a quarter of students of different ethnic backgrounds. Many feel relatively welcomed in the DHS community, however, some feel there are some cracks in the system that don’t really take their culture or religion into account.

The second largest demographic of students at DHS is students of Hispanic backgrounds, with a 17.5% population, which is big but still pretty small compared to white students.

Danna Vanegas is a freshman from Colombia, and she feels that in the DHS community, she is very welcomed and well represented.

“I feel pretty well accepted at DHS, even if I am from another country, I am treated the same and have the same opportunities as everyone else in the building,” said Vanegas.

It’s comforting that even a freshman can feel well accepted into the school on top of being from another country.

The Asian population of students at DHS is 1.1%, which is relatively low, but still pretty considerable for DHS.

So. Eric Dang doesn’t face any problems regarding his ethnicity at DHS.

“I feel very accepted at DHS, everyone is very respectful and I’ve never experienced any hate from any of my peers,” said Dang.

The smallest percentage of students at DHS are African Americans at a mere 0.5%. At an amount that small it does take things into perspective of how much of a voice is given to these students.

So. Sophia Holt feels the major proportional difference gives the minority students less opportunity.

“I feel like as a school that is primarily white it’s hard for a lot of us to feel ‘represented’ or see our experiences reflected,” said Holt.

Despite February being Black History Month, there wasn’t an advisory lesson or a schoolwide announcement that took time to reflect some of the African American experiences throughout history.

A major slip up happened with student council during the valentines day hearts posted around the school. One heart read “Are you African? Because you’re a fricken babe!” Another read “Is your dad a terrorist, because you’re the bomb!”

It’s presumably an honest mistake on student council’s part because of the cheesy pickup lines they’re supposed to find online. Though, it most likely could have been prevented if the student who picked it could recognize something that is insensitive towards another’s race. Mr. Garland quickly reprimanded the students once these mistakes were discovered.

This would’ve been a great teaching opportunity for the student. PEAT club which is run by Ms. Gonzales is all about recognizing your biases so incidents like this don’t happen.

“There’s a fine line between funny and inappropriate, sometimes the things you say to the people you are close to are not things you should say out in the open towards the public, and recognizing your biases is the first step to understanding this,” said Gonzales.

Holt did say that there was something close to a discussion about the stance that minorities have in DHS which had some minority students meet about their interactions with other students/staff regarding race. The meeting was set up by Mr. Hoerl, so it is possible that there can be more done to include a larger amount of students in discussions of race and equality.

“I think if we work towards doing things like that, maybe we will give our minority students more of a voice,” said Holt.

Though there isn’t an official record of students religious beliefs at DHS, it can be assumed that there is a good amount of different religions in the school.  

Sr. Carter Marshall follows the Jewish faith and thinks DHS is a mixed bag when it comes to representation.

I feel as though DHS is kind and fair in the sense of attitude and acceptance, but not equally in the sense of importance,” said Marshall.

Something that is important to most all religions is the holidays to celebrate their beliefs, but DHS and really most schools in America don’t take off school for those special days.

A Lot of Jewish students and teachers are not given time to enjoy their holidays, whereas there are two weeks off for a holiday that several kids at DHS don’t celebrate,” said Marshall.

Most schools are full of mostly Christian students which makes It almost seem like the school system revolves around a Christian belief because of the holidays celebrated over others. The DHS handbooks include most religions holidays in the monthly calendars but we’re not off those days, unlike Christmas and Easter.

On the outside, it may look like DHS is a pretty well-rounded community and doesn’t come off as intolerant of any sort of race that comes to the school.

Though it can’t be ignored that there is still a handful that feels more can be done to make the place more representative of some of the backgrounds whether racially or religiously.

Superintendent Dan Snowberger thinks diversity is very important but feels poverty is a bigger issue.

I think one of the things we’ve really focused on is students from poverty. Since I’ve been here one in three of our students is at the poverty level,” said Snowberger.