Diversity runs deep through the halls at schools in Worthington, Minnesota with different nationalities, ethic groups and languages; but teachers, students and staff use the diversity to their advantage.
"We have a very unique population of students in Worthington," Worthington High School Principal Paul Karelis said.
If you step in the halls, you will see students of different backgrounds working together for one goal.
"It doesn't matter what nationality our kids come from, in our school district they don't necessarily see color. They don't see different nationalities. They don't see different kids. They are kids and they are all working to do well and create opportunities for themselves," Worthington School District Superintendent John Landgaard said.
Landgaard has been superintendent for the past decade and says he never thought the school would transform into this.
"There's been a dramatic change in our student population, over that time period and about a year ago someone referred to our school as an international school," Landgaard said. "That's a benefit for our kids. They have the opportunity to work with a number of students."
Hispanic, Karen, Native American and Asian, the administration prides themselves on working and learning together.
"There are numerous languages spoken along with different dialects within that language that not only presents opportunities for our district, but also challenges," Landgaard said.
Of the 2,700 students in the district, 68 percent are diverse, but that doesn't set anyone a part.
"Our staff and our students no longer see the color of skin and every kid is expected to elevate themselves to the highest possible level," Karelis said. "We have 28 different languages, approximately 28 different languages in the building right now. It's really unique to be able to walk down to the lunch room at lunch time and see 200 students seating together eating lunch and there are combinations of kids from all over the country and the world."
And students and staff say they found the perfect way to bridge the gap between the different nationalities.
"Our school pride and our school culture continues to grow as those kids get more involved in our community, in our culture, and in our school itself," Karelis said.
Karelis says he has seen some students come into the school without being able to speak any English and they excel and achieve what they thought couldn't be possible.
"We've tried to formulate a curriculum in our ESL program so we can move those kids as rapidly as possible to break that English barrier to bring them into a position to where they can start into an advance or intermediate ESL program then move into the main stream classes," Karelis said.
One example is Perla Banegas, she is now a Paraprofessional for the district, but back in 1998 she was a 12-year-old who didn't know any English.
"The teacher didn't know until a couple months in because I would still work really hard but I would take really long bathroom breaks and just cry, Banegas said.
But through hard work and the help of teachers, Banegas is now back in the halls she once walked as a student, simply because she wants to help those who were in her shoes. Her dream job is to become an ESL teacher and she is actively achieving that goal.
"I feel that I am privileged, I don't regret any of my experiences or, 'I wish I would have been born with naturally English speaking skills' I'm glad I went through that's what makes me connect with these kids when they are frustrated or when they are in the bathroom too long," Banegas said.