Obtaining an education is all about broadening our personal horizons, cultivating new experiences and learning how to see the world from multiple viewpoints. That is why diversity in our schools is so important. It enriches our educational experience and allows us to see the world differently. Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC), our state and indeed our nation would not be as great as they are if it were not for diversity, both our commonalities and our differences.
Diversity can be defined in many ways. As I ponder what the word means to me, I asked MHCC staff to think of several special people who exemplify diversity:
- There is the young, single mom who lost her vision several years ago but still remains positive and committed to her college courses, experiences and life.
- There is the deaf trailblazer who completed the Physical Therapy Assistant program and forced others to think outside the "hood" about what is possible.
- There is the 18-year-old Latina student who is the first in her family to go to college, inspiring others with her dedication and perseverance.
- There is the 16-year-old Russian immigrant who earns her work-study money at an elementary school, because she wants to be an elementary school teacher when she grows up.
- There is the wheelchair-bound student who, despite her own difficulties, never fails to ask how everyone's day is going.
- There is the Salvadorian student who will be the first in his family to get a college degree and wants to get a job in El Salvador that will allow his brothers and sisters to get an education.
- There is the Haitian student who wants to help his native Haiti by getting an education, which is more important now than ever before.
- There is the gay male student who chose an education over drugs.
- There is the 25-year-old Latino student who, even though he doesn't have a social security number, is committed to becoming the owner of a hotel and restaurant complex in the Portland-area someday.
All of these people (and thousands of others not listed above) add value and breadth to our learning community at MHCC - everyday. We respect and appreciate each of them, never forgetting just how boring, meaningless, joyless and uneventful our College community would be without them.
As the president of MHCC, it is part of my mission to ensure that people from all walks of life feel welcome and empowered to thrive here. Off-color jokes, intolerance, my-way-or-the-highway attitudes have NO place in our College.
At MHCC, we believe that the pursuit of diversity is intensely important especially in an institution of higher learning. In today's global economy, an educational experience that fails to expose students to multicultural perspectives and interactions in diverse communities is inadequate and unacceptable.
Whether we are African-American, Asian, Hispanic, White, gay, straight, transgender, conservative, liberal, extroverted or introverted, we matter. And, lest we forget, ALL of us have the potential to change the world.