Sunday, May 16, 2004

Many N.Ky. students lack
multicultural experience

But some suspect they'll continue living and working mostly among white people

By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dixie Heights hallway
Students change classes on a recent day at Dixie Heights High School in Edgewood. Last year, about 6 percent of Dixie Heights students were minorities.
(Patrick Reddy photo)

EDGEWOOD - Dixie Heights High School is 94 percent white. Bethany Denham will find out soon what that means for her future.

Bethany is a junior at Dixie. She plans to attend Kentucky State University, whose music program she admires. But Kentucky State is a historically black college, and Bethany is white.

She expects to be a bit unnerved, she says. With so few minorities at Dixie Heights, her knowledge of African-Americans has been shaped in large part by reports of shootings in Cincinnati.

"If Dixie Heights were more diverse, she says, she would surely feel differently. But the school's racial makeup reflects the city around it, which is 97 percent white. That's also typical for Northern Kentucky school districts.

Last year, only about 6 percent of Dixie Heights students were minorities.

Occasionally, someone will speak up about ethnicity. In Spanish class, for instance, a Venezuelan student once pointed out to her classmates that not all Hispanics are from Mexico.

For the most part, though, there is little debate about race because so few Dixie students can speak from a nonwhite perspective. Some students say they're probably not well-prepared for the diversity they will encounter later.

History teacher Rick Raabe isn't sure what can be done about that. Students would likely get a more accurate view of America through exposure to more cultures, he says. But there simply aren't many minorities living in the school district.


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