Home > Alternative Schools, Education, Identity > My First Class at Hidden Lake

My First Class at Hidden Lake

The first time I sat through a full class at Hidden Lake High School [in Westminster, Colo.] was in the beginning of January, 2011. It was their last day of the hexter – the school has ‘terms’ that last six weeks each – and a celebration was underway. Each student in Zoe Driver’s class brought in a favorite dish that represented some part of their cultural background. There were homemade sopas with refried beans and steak. There was chicken mole, chips and salsa, enchiladas and Mexican desserts I’d never seen or heard of. The one Asian student in the class made fried rice. 


Race and ethnicity are an integral part of Hidden Lake – and while I’m sometimes used to these topics being shied away from in exchange for political correctedness – the students inside Hidden Lake prefer to speak their minds.

Maybe this is because the school represents an opposite image of our country’s ethnic makeup. 

73 percent of the students at Hidden Lake are Latino. Whites are the minority. More than half of the students are eligible for free lunch. Most of the girls I meet are either pregnant or have children. 

But whatever the reasons, there is something ‘real’ about the people who walk the hallways and sit at the desks.

The atmosphere is raw and unedited. Students swear. They laugh loudly and they shout loudly. They are angry and happy and creative and passionate. Emotions run on roller coasters. They make jokes about sex and farting and male genitals. They practice saying hello and thank you.


Near the end of the day, one boy yells across the room to a girl, “Who’s the girl who inspirates you the most?”

“Inspirates?” she responds, laughing. 

“Yeah, the female who inspirates you the most.” It doesn’t really matter that the word is wrong. The girl understands. 

“Selena,” she says.

“Selena? Like the artist?” 

“Yeah,” she says.

 I don’t what I expected the girl to say, but I wasn’t thinking of Selena, the famous Mexican female vocalist who was murdered when most of these students were learning to walk. 

They surprised me the first day I was there. And they’ve surprised me everyday since. 


More to come

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