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A SCHOOL DIVIDED?

Ag students discuss stereotypes, perception

DYLAN DRESCHER, Staff Writer

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Graphic by Rachel Santostefano

 

Despite administration attempting to provide an inclusive environment for all students, major divides exist within the student population of the school.
Humans naturally group themselves, spending time with people similar to themselves in order to feel safe. This is even more pronounced during high school, when students are beginning their transition into adulthood and become more self-conscious and insecure.
For many, one of the most prominent divides is that between the students in the Agricultural Science and Technology program and the rest of the student population.
“There are definitely stereotypes about people in Ag,” said sophomore Jacob Shettleworth. “I feel as if people outside of Ag think we are all crazy…because we are different.”
However, this is not a unanimous opinion. Many Ag students do not feel any animosity directed toward them. Sophomore Daniel Crescimano said, “I think [Ag] is really just a course. We are just part of the rest of the school.”
For those who feel the effects of stereotyping, the image is almost always negative. “[People not in Ag think] we are all hillbilly, conservative, tractor riding… camo wearing kids with animals,” said junior Nicole Charest, who is a part of the program.
As with most prejudices, this can have adverse effects. The way people perceive one another almost always affects how they behave and interact with each other.
“It’s easy enough to make friends, but sometimes once people find out you’re in Ag all of a sudden you’re not you anymore,” said sophomore Lily Doan. “You’re a kid who has lived on a farm their entire life and lives in cow country.”
Again, Crescimano does not feel the same consequences of revealing he is part of the program. According to him, “When people find out I’m in Ag they’re like ‘oh, I didn’t know that’ a

Photo by Sofia Marszalek-Baldyga
Ag students and seniors Jill Gordon and Melissa Hass walk through the Ag door.

nd it doesn’t change anything.”
The drastic difference between the experiences of Crescimano and Doan may be a result of their differing social circles. Junior Emma Conquest said, “[How you are perceived] all depends on the group of people you hang out with.”
Rebecca Isaacson, Department Head of the Agricultural Science program, agrees. “I don’t think there are any divides specific to Ag,” she said. “I think in general kids tend to group into social cliques, and obviously students in Ag might kind of stick together.”
As far as animosity between cliques, Doan does not see as much stemming from the Ag groups as she does directed towards them.
“I think that since the kids in Ag get stereotyped a lot and since we are on the receiving end of the stereotyping, we don’t want to stereotype others as much,” said Doan. “Since non-Ag people don’t know what’s going on behind the doors of Ag, we know not to stereotype others because we don’t know what is happening to them.”
There are many driving forces that result in division and prejudice toward people in Ag, perhaps most obviously the agricultural wing’s physical separation from the main building.

“It’s just isolated from the rest of the school,” said Charest. “People walk in the Ag door and didn’t know there’s a whole different building back there.”
The isolation does not have to be physical, either, as experienced by some students who commute from different towns.

“[Most people not in Ag] stay in town throughout school, and know everyone,” said senior, and the school’s FFA president, Jonathan Rosenblum. “Students from out of town come in after, and it’s a new environment for them.”
Students already here just do not know them, which often can lead to a feeling of ostracism.
Similarly, the lack of knowledge about the program is one of the main driving forces of divides.
“I feel there’s a misunderstanding,” said Rosenblum. “I, for instance, plan on going into environmental law and politics. There’s also veterinary school, there’s more to agriculture than just farming.”
This lack of understanding does not only occur in the student body.
“There’s some teachers who don’t really understand what we’re doing down here,” said Isaacson. According to her, this is not a new phenomenon. “When I was in high school one of my teachers said, ‘You’re in Ag? You’re too smart for Ag.’”
To be clear, according to Isaacson, 100% of people who graduated from the program last year went to college, something the rest of the school cannot boast.
Isaacson said, “We are very successful down here.”
This widespread misunderstanding is hardly a new phenomenon. In fact, these divides may have been around as long as the Ag program itself.
“My parents weren’t in Ag, but they both went to [school here]. It was there when they were in high school,” said sophomore Rose Romano. “When I was in Wilson, I wanted to do it and my parents were confused about it….They didn’t really know anything about it besides that it’s agricultural science.”
As expected when opinions are made without accurate information, most preconceptions about the Ag program are incorrect, for instance those about a right leaning political affiliation.
“Just because you’re in Ag doesn’t mean you’re conservative,” said Rosenblum. “A lot of people in Ag that I talk to about politics actually tend to be liberal.”
Another common and incorrect assumption is about career choice.
“People think that since we are in Ag we are all farmers, or want to be farmers, which isn’t true.” said junior Chris Goss, who is in Ag. “For some people, it may have been something that they wanted to try and ended up liking it, so they stuck with it. Many people have ideas for their future that do not involve Ag, such as lawyers or physical therapists.”
The solution, it seems, is to understand each other.
One of the things currently being done to advance understanding is the annual Teacher Luncheon.
In addition, Isaacson has said she welcomes anyone who would like a tour.
Only through learning can we span the divide and truly make the school inclusive for all students.

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A SCHOOL DIVIDED?