Last Wednesday morning, I had the pleasure of attending the commencement ceremony of Deering High School’s class of 2017. As a member of Deering High’s nearly all-white class of 1984, I was struck by the change in the school’s demographics. Graduating alongside my nephew and some students who could well have been my classmates’ children were young men and women whose origins were far from Maine.

One of them, Dylantha Musonerwa, told the audience about leaving Burundi with her mother and two siblings in 2008, a wrenching but lifesaving departure that brought them to Portland, and Dylantha eventually to Deering. It was clear that the confident speaker at the podium has already contributed much to her community and will continue to do so.

In introducing her, Principal Ira Waltz told those assembled that these students of the class of 2017 had taught him many lessons. One is the truth that “a person’s race, ethnicity or accent is no indication of ability.”

No argument with that here. But as Waltz congratulated the students in a series of languages that included Arabic, French, Somali, Tagalog and Vietnamese, it occurred to me that it is also true that the vigorous diversity of Deering High’s class of 2017 contributes to a collective richness of experience, skill and talent that my far more monocultural classmates and I couldn’t have imagined. If these students are the future of Maine and the United States, then it’s looking pretty good.

Vicky Smith

South Portland

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