What happens when we lend high school students our recording equipment and let them do interviews on any topics they choose? As part of WBFO's ongoing education reporting we continue our Student Journals series. Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley says an ambitious student at Amherst Central High School conducted a number of interviews with classmates.
Sixteen-year-old Kelsey Dux crafted her questions to interact with students, boldly setting out to discuss the topic of bullying and racism with some of her classmates at Amherst Central. The high school has a diverse student population.
“I’m Sharlita Cooper. I’m a senior at Amherst High School,” stated Cooper.
“So, overall, what do you think the biggest issue in your school would be?” asked Dux.
“Overall I think the biggest issue is, I feel like, is understanding each other. We have a hard time showing respect for one another. I feel like we need to respect more of each other,” responded Cooper.
“Do you notice a lot of bullying or discrimination in your school or have you ever had to deal with this yourself?” questioned Dux.
“One of the reasons why I moved to Amherst is because I got bullied a lot—definitely for being fat and gay. So, comparing Amherst to one of the Buffalo schools I went to, I would say it’s definitely better. I don’t get bullied here,” Cooper explained.
“So if there’s something you could fix in this country, what would that be?” asked Dux.
“Well, I see a lot of homeless people, so we should definitely start right there with poverty," Cooper said.
Cooper also said there were problems with racism, herself having been called the N-word "a couple of times" upon moving to Amherst.
"I think if we could just hold off on being so negative word-wise, that would also be better,” Cooper said.
Dux also interviewed Ahmed Shah, a junior at Amherst Central.
“So in your school, do you notice a lot of bullying or discrimination and have you had ever dealt with something like this yourself?” questioned Dux.
“Yes. I think our school is diverse and the problems they do face with bullying is that—people aren’t usually bullies here, because people has sort of accepted another race and living with them. My friends—it’s diverse. I have a different group of friends. But our defense mechanism of fighting the other person is racism. We are racist towards that other person if we don’t know anything about them, we’re just racist towards them. But other than that, I don’t think there is any real discrimination,” explained Shah.
“But you do notice apparent racism based on ignorance at your school?” questioned Dux. “Yes,” Shah responded. “Yeah I do.”
“How would you describe a 'great' country, or what do you envision as a 'great' America?” Dux asked.
“I think a great America for me would be the whole country to accept diversity. New Yorkers in Uptown East is where the immigrants actually come. Deeper into the U.S. you go, you see more whites and they don’t really accept any other races. They don’t accept Middle Easterners or Chinese or Asians or anyone. They just learn their history and who they are and judge them all by that. In New York, everyone comes here. People here have a different opinion than the ones who are deeper into the United States,” Shah replied.
“It’s easier for them to appreciate a culture when they’re more exposed to it, is that what you are saying?” Dux asked.
“Yes,” Shah responded.
“Interesting,” commented Dux.
Senior Trinity Mohr is another student who was interviewed by Dux.
“Do you think your school is very diverse?” Dux asked Mohr.
“Compared to the other suburbs around here, yes, but it definitely could be a bit more diverse. Amherst is still—if I’m correct, is pretty much predominately white, straight people, so it could be more diverse in other directions,” Mohr remarked.
“Do you notice a lot of bullying or discrimination and have you had to deal with this yourself?” questioned Dux.
“If there is any bullying or discrimination, I don’t really notice much bullying, but discrimination, it’s usually been accidental—they don’t really realize they’re doing it. I’m part of GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance), so we’ve had the time to go over them, figure out ways for them to correct their speech. Stuff that was very heteronormative or slightly homophobic and they didn’t realize. Same with the bathroom policy, which we now have a gender neutral bathroom,” Mohr described.
"So GSA is an organization known as Gay-Straight Alliance?” Dux asked.
“Yes,” responded Mohr. “And you’re a part of that?” Dux questioned.
“I’m currently the president this year,” Mohr said.
“How would you describe a 'great' country, or what do you envision as a 'great' America?” Dux asked Mohr.
“A great America would be one where your rights are respected, no matter race or gender or sexuality or whatever it is,” Mohr replied.
“If you could fix or change one thing about this country, what would that be?” Dux asked.
“If we could fix anything, it would be the harshness of bipartisanship, so how either side or political party wants to compromise when that’s what is so desperately needed,” answered Mohr.