EDITORIAL: A different look for students

York Dispatch

One day last week, 30 York College students took a tour of downtown York. Some of them were freshmen getting to know the city where they'll be spending the next four years. Others were returning students who wanted to see places they might have missed before.

The students are the Graham Innovation Scholars and the Eisenhart Community Scholars, groups that are getting York College students involved with the community. The Graham program emphasizes entrepreneurial skills and community business, while the Eisenhart program is for students who want to work with nonprofits and emphasizes volunteer work in the community.

While the students learned about York, York also learned about the students.

York College freshmen scholars Tafshena Khan, center left, and Shannon McDonnell, center right, take a tour of downtown York with classmates Thursday, August 25, 2016. Graham Innovation Scholars and the Eisenhart Community Scholars from the college participated in the tour. Bill Kalina photo

Some of them grew up in York County but never really explored the options downtown York offered. Others are from out of the area and are open to the unique vibe York has.

But is York ready for all that these young men and women have to offer?

College students have a look. In a gallery of photos the Dispatch posted from the tour, even the ones who aren't wearing York College T-shirts have that aura of college student — looking at the world with fresh eyes, searching for their place in the community, brimming with ideas they're bursting to share.

They wear a mix of clothes, with flowery print tops for the young women and graphic T's for the young men a standard. Lanyards, sunglasses and backpacks abound.

And there's one young woman, freshman Tafshena Khan, wearing a hijab, the head scarf worn by many Muslim women to cover their hair, leaving the face uncovered.

PHOTOS: York College scholars tour the town

The hijab still stands out in York, although not as much as the burka, which covers the entire body, leaving the woman inside completely unseen.

You'd think that with York's religious mix, people would be somewhat tolerant of a religious expression in clothing. After all, Mennonite women commonly wear their hair in a bun, covered with a hair net or bun cover that is pinned on. It's not uncommon to see women in York with that hairstyle, wearing skirts, often made of denim, that fall to the ankles and long sleeves, no matter how hot it is.

And yet some people saw Khan's dress and made assumptions.

Comments on the Dispatch Facebook page, which have since been hidden, suggested that Yorkers see an obviously Muslim person and assume they are a potential terrorist.

Unfortunately, those types of comments have come to be nearly expected. After all, we live in a world where France is insisting women uncover their bodies on the beach in the name of assimilating into the culture and making others more comfortable.

But we can be better than that.

These students have plenty to give York, from their energy and ideas to their time and skills. Most importantly, they have a fresh perspective that is sorely needed to transform the city into the best it can be.

And Yorkers need to learn to see and listen to these new ideas and to let people be themselves. Even if that means wearing clothing that doesn't fit into the narrow view.

Scholars take a walk around downtown