Finding Community at Park View High School
When John and I arrived at Park View High School on the first real day of spring, we weren’t sure what to expect. We were there because the school’s library had won a National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the first time any high school library had received the honor.
We entered the sprawling building and met Candace Rush, one of the librarians and the person who had worked to painstakingly craft a perfect interview schedule for the next three days. Working around the school’s bell schedule, as well as the students’ and teachers’ classes, Candace had made a chart in their office, complete with moveable cards representing each interview pair! This was definitely a first for us, and a good indication of the diligence and care that the library runs on.
For the next three days, we spoke with a series of students and teachers about their experiences at Park View. It is one of the more ethnically and economically diverse schools in the area, a fact that members of the Park View community are proud to claim. Students talked about the warmth of the school environment, and the support of their teachers. The teachers talked about their respect for their students, many of whom are working to help support their families while working as hard as possible in their classes.
On the last day, Uyenmy Dao and Beth Walker came in. Beth has been a teacher at Park View since it first opened, and Uyenmy is a student in her sophomore year. Beth had grown up nearby in Virginia, while Uyenmy was born in Vietnam and moved to Sterling six years ago.
Uyenmy vividly recalled her memory of her first moment in the United States, and the adjustments she began to make soon after. She explained that in the United States her priority is her education. If she goes to college she will be the first in her family to do so. Beth shared her own experience with education, both as a teacher and a student. After decades of teaching Physical Education and Driver’s Education at Park View she returned to school and got a Master’s Degree, and now works to support teachers in their use of technology in the classroom.
Throughout their interview, they spoke of the Park View community. Beth, who coached the girls’ softball team for 27 years, talked about how being part of the ever-evolving community has changed her, for the better. Uyenmy remembered the struggles she found as she adjusted to life in the United States, went to school, and helped her family. She said that through those struggles, she learned to have confidence in herself, and the ability to accomplish what she set out to do.
At the end of the interview, Uynemy and Beth put the pieces together and realized that Uyenmy’s mother and Beth have met, and that Beth and Uyenmy had been looking for each other, at Uyenmy’s mother’s encouragement. It seemed a fitting end, a coming full circle, for two people who had been learning just how much they valued their community.