More than two dozen flags are flying inside the lobby of an East Tennessee high school. It’s the school’s way of celebrating diversity within their community.
Each flag at Oak Ridge High School represents a nation within the student body. School counselors got the idea to display the flags last spring and students say it’s like a little piece of home.
“I’m Mongolian. I was born there,” said Batu Odbadrakh a senior at ORHS.
“I’m Mexican,” said junior Julie Ruiz.
“I was born in Zimbabwe,” said senior Taku Mabvuta.
This is the first week students at ORHS are able to see 28 flags from all over the world. Those countries include Bangladesh, Canada, China, Germany, Great Britain, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Cambodia, Korea, Mongolia, Mexico, Munich, Nepal, Panama, Peru, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, El Salvador, Ukraine, USA, and Zimbabwe.
Odbadrakh shared the meaning behind the Mongolian national flag.
“Red, blue, red in columns and then there are symbols on the left side and they represent Mongolian values like peace, defending your values and the blue represents the great blue sky,” said Odbadrakh.
Ruiz also sharing the meaning behind the Mexican national flag.
“Green represents hope, the white is purity and the red is religion. Now the emblem goes back to an Aztec legend to here the Aztecs believed when they found an eagle eating a snake on top of a cactus, that would be where they constructed their city,” said Ruiz.
Mabvuta moved to the United States five months ago and fondly remembers the meaning of the Zimbabwean flag.
“The green represents vegetation, the yellow is for minerals like gold and silver, then we have the black which stands for the black majority. The red represents the blood which was spilled during the liberation struggle. Then there’s a white triangle in the middle which represents peace and inside it there’s a bird,” said Mabvuta.
The 28 flags flying in the school’s lobby have proven to be a teaching tool in that students are able to start a conversation sharing their culture and heritage.
“I think I’m the only Mongolian in the school so it feels a little more personal, like I’m kind of leaving my mark here,” said Odbadrakh.
“That is who I am, that is where I’m from, that is my culture and that’s who I represent,” added Ruiz.
“I’m so proud of it because it really represents our past, the present and the future,” said Mabvuta.
This small group of students saying they find strength in the American flag as well.
“It’s the American dream. We moved here because there’s just more opportunity and freedom,” said Odbadrakh.
“It represents the dream that my parents had when they came here,” said Ruiz.
“It really represents the opportunity for you to work hard and be successful,” added Mabvuta.
School counselors say this is all possible because of a grant through the Oak Ridge Education Foundation. The high school asked for $500 to buy each flag. There’s still money left over so that they can buy more over the coming years.
A 29th flag is being purchased which will represent the national flag of Cuba.