Flags showcase diversity in commons


Credit: Caitlin Newton

Flags of different countries across the world line the walls of the WHS commons. The flags were installed in the commons this past summer. “There was a really careful effort made to ensure that each flag was hung correctly so that it’s not upside down or sideways,” Principal Allyson Mizoguchi said.

Caitlin Newton and Isabella Arenas

The elementary and middle schools in Wayland have had flags in their eating spaces for many years. However, the flags were a new addition to the high school this year. According to Principal Allyson Mizoguchi, in an effort to show the growing diversity of the students, WHS installed flags in the commons.

“The racial-ethnic diversity here at the high school is increasing,” Mizoguchi said. “We wanted to pay homage to that and make sure students with various backgrounds felt represented.”

Last spring, students responded to a survey sent out by administration where they stated their countries of origin. After going through the student input, 103 flags in the commons representing students’ backgrounds.

The goal of the initiative was to make school more of a safe space for students.

“There’s a lot of research around [how] the surroundings of the students in the school represent who they are [because] they feel safer and more comfortable,” Mizoguchi said. “School can feel more like a home for [the students].”

In terms of welcoming new ethnic backgrounds, there is room for more flags as the school’s diversity grows.

“What we need to do is create a mechanism for new students to come to us and communicate to us their flags and countries of origin so we make sure we have them,” Mizoguchi said. “We definitely want to make sure we have a process for that to occur so we don’t miss anything.”

Since the commons is used not only by the high school but also for events around the community, Mizoguchi noted that the space was deemed the “perfect” location.

“We selected the commons because it’s a space where the community often goes as well,” Mizoguchi said. “Anytime we have concerts or theater productions, many community events take place in the commons.”

The company that installed the flags decided the commons was the best fit for the flags as opposed to the media center and other spaces in the high school.

“We also had some suggestions to use the library, and it turned out the installation was just going to be more complicated because of the paneling in there,” Mizoguchi said. “So we decided [to install the flags] in the commons.”

English teacher Nancy Florez believes the flags make the commons feel more welcoming.

“I like them; I think they’re colorful, they fill up a lot of the empty space and they warm up [the commons],” Florez said. “But, I do wish there was a guide that informed people what country each flag corresponded to.”

Junior Megan Sin enjoys how the flags represent the diversity of WHS but doesn’t approve of the location.

“I think the concept of the flags has its positives as it shows that we welcome diversity, but I don’t like how [aesthetically] busy it makes the commons look,” Sin said.

Similarly to Sin, sophomore Taylor Travis dislikes the look; however, Travis is supports the showcase of diversity.

“I think they have a good message, but they take up space and they make the commons feel a lot more closed in during lunches,” Travis said. “I would choose not to have them.”