Nebraska resettles more refugees per capita than any other state, and many of these refugees are educated at Lincoln High School, in Nebraska’s capital city. Flags of all the countries represented by the student body line the main entrance to the school, representing the school’s embrace of diversity. This whole-hearted celebration is found in the thriving campus climate. It’s a place where demanding academics join with vibrant arts and a welcoming atmosphere.
Lincoln High has created a culture of support and challenge, where students are willing to take risks – academic and personal – with little fear of failure. The school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program is one of only three in the state and the only one in Lincoln. As other recognized Schools of Opportunity have done, Lincoln uses its IB program not as an exclusive enclave, but instead as a way to enrich curriculum and teacher professional development and to prepare a broader swath of its students for college.
As one student explained, at Lincoln teachers and students believe that “if you are making too high of a grade, you are not learning enough and should find a harder class to challenge yourself.” This applies to students born speaking English in Nebraska and to those who arrive speaking one of the 29 other languages represented by the school’s students. Administrators and a counselor who work specifically with the school’s emerging bilinguals are able to facilitate mid-semester course switches to allow for such continued challenge and support. In addition, bilingual language liaisons, as well as onsite offices for numerous community partners, provide direct support for students and their families.
Everyone finds a place to belong. In fact, most students find multiple homes among the school’s vast offerings in arts, athletics, and academics. The feeling is tangible as you enter the courtyard with an art installation that combines photography and sculpture. The rich arts program, available to all, serves as a common language for Lincoln’s diverse student population.
Far from acceding to a bias that Lincoln, Nebraska is in the middle of nowhere, the school celebrates its diversity, pointing out that it’s really “the middle of everywhere.”