Saying hello takes on new meaning at East High School these days. It has a lot to do with diversity in this building being a part of everyday life.
While the school’s 2,200 students represent a variety of ethnic backgrounds, University of Anchorage Alaska sociology professor Dr. Chad Farrell discovered after a phone call from a parent that East along with Bartlett and West high schools can take the honor of being the most diverse schools in the U.S.
A conservative calculation, Farrell said, gathered from data on 18,000 high school students revealed ethnicities ranging from White to Black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian-Alaska Native, Hawaiian-Pacific Islander, and Bi-Racial.
"A hundred would be maximum diversity and that would be where all seven groups are equal size," Farrell said. "Within these broad ethno-racial groupings there is a tremendous amount of diversity, linguistic diversity, cultural diversity, geographic diversity."
Those are differences East students appreciate, whether they are outside or inside the classroom.
"You have a worldly view and you get to stay in one place," said Christina Edwin who is Mexican-Athabascan.
"I get exposed to so many languages and that is so fascinating to me," said Choua Xiong, a student of Hmong heritage.
"Having that experience of going to East and having the privilege to be exposed to so many people gives me a unique perspective," said Kimberly Diamond who is Filipino-Caucasian.
Omar Niagne and Astrid Williams say being exposed to culture prepares them for their futures. Niagne, who is African-Arabic, wants to be a doctor and Williams, who is German-American, wants to be a Navy officer.
“Coming from a school and understanding different cultures is going to be super-important for that career field," Williams said.
"Being able to see how well I can adapt with other countries will help me," Niagne said.
Opportunities to learn about the world and what's in it at East High School are only a greeting away.
The top ten schools, in Hawaii, California, and Washington, favor the West Coast because Farrell says that's where the most diverse regions are.