"We were very surprised," says Tony King, the school's headmaster. Faculty spent the day trying to answer students' questions. Many feared they would no longer be welcome in this country, and that they would be deported along with their families.
"In the lunchroom, it was really quiet," King says.
The school's 500 students represent forty countries and speak more than twenty-five languages; half have lived in the United States for fewer than eighteen months. Many of the students, while troubled by the election results, said they believed Trump's victory was inevitable.
"They had been watching the news on Univision and seeing all those rallies and thinking, 'Of course he's going to win,'" King recalls.
To understand their reaction, it helps to know the circumstances of the students' lives. Many are refugees from war-torn, impoverished nations. Some crossed American borders illegally, by boat or on foot. Nearly all speak assuredly of the American Dream, of the potential to rise to prosperity through hard work and force of will.
But the students also see that the United States is just as susceptible to populist tyranny and tin-pot despotism as the developing nations in Africa and Central America that they fled.
Elio, a seventeen-year-old who made a solo journey from Guatemala--trudging through deserts by night and hiding at the bottom of a cement truck by day--says the racial hierarchies he has observed since arriving in Boston in January are not that different from those in his native country. Just as the Guatemalan government persecutes a vulnerable indigenous minority, he explains, some politicians in the United States--including the President--codify Islamophobia through legislation and immigration bans.
Elio, whose last name is being withheld for his protection, has noticed that, at school and at work as a dishwasher at a local pizza shop, darker-skinned immigrants are discriminated against by their lighter-skinned immigrant peers.
And yet while the social hierarchies he encounters in the United States may be dishearteningly familiar, Elio says the particulars of his everyday life would have been unrecognizable to him back in Guatemala.
"The people here have so many different haircuts," he says in Spanish. The students milling around in the halls are different. They are taller, their clothes have unfamiliar patterns, they are assertive in ways he finds foreign. And then there is the sheer diversity of the student body: the number of...