How WHHS influences student identity


Owen Cummings

Class of ‘22 rehearsing lines for the highschool play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Left to right: Megan Graeler, Brando Donaldson, Nia Stefanov, Kathryn Daniher.

With more than 3,000 students and staff from all over the tri-state area, WHHS is extremely culturally diverse, so it’s bound to happen that some people will have differences that may be new to others. Spending 40 hours a week surrounded by so many different personalities; when each has their own opinions, beliefs, styles, aspirations and interests not only gives everyone an opportunity to learn about unfamiliar cultures but also teaches us some things about ourselves.

From political views and sexual identity, to religion and personality, whether it be a life-changing revelation or a simple realization, change is inevitable. According to our recent Schoology survey, 91 percent of the 135 students who answered have experienced some type of change since beginning at WHHS.

“I feel like being able to see all of the cultures and ethnicities, and the different types of people from a huge age range helped me to see a larger way of life,” Caelan McFadden-Grubenhoff, ‘21, said.

In her fifth year at WHHS, McFadden-Grubenhoff says that her experiences at school have really shaped who she is and helped her find herself through observing other students and building off of their ideas and styles.
In our survey, over one third of students claimed to have experienced a personality change since becoming a WHHS student; almost all of them saying that they have become a better or more mature person, or are better able to interact and communicate with others.

Samantha Rowlett, ‘22, said that since coming to WHHS she has learned how to reflect upon herself to improve her mindset. Before starting at WHHS she went to a small school in which most people had very similar beliefs and personalities. Since then she has learned from the diverse WHHS community and has been striving to better herself by recognizing her own faults in order to become the best person that she can be.

WHHS culture has a very wide range, and for some people, the melting pot of personalities is normal, but for others, walking in on their first day the view is hugely different from what they saw at their old school.

Walnut is very diverse in terms of race, sexuality, gender identification, etc. Although I was young, I never really saw any of that at [my old school], so starting at Walnut really opened my eyes to see that you can be who you want to be and not get judged or looked down on.”

— Sophia Bahri, '22

“Walnut is very diverse in terms of race, sexuality, gender identification, etc. Although I was young, I never really saw any of that at [my old school], so starting at Walnut really opened my eyes to see that you can be who you want to be and not get judged or looked down on” Sophia Bahri, ‘22, said.

In her fourth year at WHHS, Bahri said that since coming to WHHS she has become more open-minded in terms of accepting others who have differences that are new to her, and that she is “able to view other beliefs and understand them.”

WHHS offers approximately 145 different classes and 110 clubs and teams, so it’s not hard for students to find topics that interest them. Many students’ interests and passions develop and dwindle as they explore these options.
SENIOR Gavin Henry said that WHHS has helped him grow as a person not only due to the diversity of the people, but also the education. The wide range of class options that WHHS offers, including AP human geo and ethnic studies, has allowed Henry to explore his interests along with other cultures that he may not have been able to learn about otherwise.

As teenagers we’re all still figuring out who we are and how we want the world to see us; showing our true selves to others is a bit daunting. The atmosphere of acceptance here at WHHS is a breath of fresh air for many trying to figure out who they are or even those who already know but are afraid to express it.
Brando Donaldson ‘22, who came out as bisexual in eighth grade said, “I was actually like hiding. I didn’t want to tell anyone because I was too nervous that people would like, not accept who I was, or anything, and once I told people everyone was like, really supportive.”

Donaldson explained that due to the support of his family and the good friends that he’s gained since starting at WHHS a lot of pressure and nervousness was relieved, making him “really appreciative of everything. Even more than [he] was before.” This sense of relief helped him to do better in class and have a more positive outlook on life knowing that he is accepted and loved.

The amalgamation of race, religion, style, personality, aspirations and beliefs that is WHHS is also simply a large box of impressionable teenagers, so it’s destined that some may graduate leaving not as the exact same person they were when they walked in on their first day. As the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

All views shared in the Style & Culture section of The Chatterbox belong to their respective authors, and may not represent the views of the publication as a whole.