Diversity just brings out more Fort Love
There are dozens of flags on display near the front office at Fort Vancouver High School.
“Each flag represents at least one student who is currently attending,” senior Max Cifuentes proudly proclaims.
“It makes me feel blessed,” added Dhamar Campos, the student body president. “It can bring up a conversation.”
Campos said students ask each other where they are from, get to know one another, and celebrate the differences.
There are close to 60 flags because that is what makes Fort Vancouver so special.
Many still refer to it as Fort Vancouver High School, but its official name is Fort Vancouver Center for International Studies.
Campos, also a standout athlete on the cross country and track and field teams, makes the daily announcements at school. “The Hammer,” as she is called, spreads the word.
“We call it Fort Love,” she said. “Supporting one another and holding each other accountable.”
She loved High-Five Fridays at Fort. She also loved when the students would gather for a school-wide photo, say in the shape of a heart, or the shape of the FV logo.
Cifuentes is in a number of clubs and is the co-president of the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society. He also is a Fort Vancouver ambassador.
“There’s a lot of people from a lot of different places. I haven’t seen any other school nearly as close to such high diversity,” Cifuentes said. “We have international nights multiple times throughout the school year. And as the years go by, we get more and more diverse staff members, as well. The staff members we have are very supportive of all the different walks of life.”
Those staff members, he added, make for a better environment.
“Fort Vancouver is a place where I can trust the teachers, trust they will do their best to give me an amazing education,” Cifuentes said. “I just know the teachers at Fort are there because they care about helping lower-class students. They want to enrich their lives the best they can. The teachers who are there are there because they care.”
Of course, those teachers and students can no longer talk face-to-face on campus.
“I miss getting to be with my friends, getting to be with the teachers,” Cifuentes said. “A lot of students at Fort have some special connection with at least one teacher at school. There are staff members I can depend on. If I have trouble at school or home, I can fall back on them.
“The way they treat you with respect and kindness and empathy, that’s what I miss.”
Campos is missing that, as well as all the stuff that was to come in what would have been the final months of a traditional school year.
“I’m a really social person. I miss walking the hall. ‘Hey!’ ‘Good morning!’ I miss everything, even the announcements,” she said. “I just want to stay busy. I feel like there is so much more I wanted to do, to accomplish, my senior year. I wanted to get that full experience.”
Instead, the folks at Fort Vancouver will just have different memories from a typical school year. Still, they will have fond memories of Fort.
“When I see Fort Vancouver colors, the Fort mascot, I think how we represent all the different nationalities,” Cifuentes said. “Some people who go to Fort come from countries and are looking for a better life. At Fort … we’re trying to make it better. In our minds, the diversity already makes us the best (school) out there.”
“I’m proud to be a Trapper,” Campos said. “When I see red, I see Fort Love. This is who we are. We are family.”
Advice to other students during the school closure:
Cifuentes has academics on the brain.
“Make sure to do all your (online) assignments. This doesn’t mean you should let your education go to waste,” he said, adding that those who slack off during the closure are only hurting themselves. “Don’t let yourself get harmed because you weren’t up for it.”
Campos wants all the Trappers to be there for each other.
“Stay strong. We’re all in this together,” she said. “ At the end of the day, something good will come out of it.”